That Time of Year, Again

It is my first smile of day. I arrive at the Arboretum, sad and sore. The
soreness is in my lower back, but I am not sure where the sadness comes from.
I smile at the little girl, dressed in shades of brown that blend with her
skin, as she poses next to the giant, waiting for her mom to snap the picture.
Then she hangs onto the beanstalk next to Jack’s leg.

I am here for my daily walk, so what am I doing sitting on a bench among the
Fairy Friends, dressed in silks and beads and sparkling stickers on their faces?
I think perhaps it is what I need to do. I need to simply be and enjoy the
scarecrows that had arrived at the Arboretum.

I stand up slowly and groan as my back seizes up, but I know that movement
will ease the pain. I walk along the promenade that winds through the garden,
bright with flowers in the summer, but now their colors are darker and drier.
The scarecrows line the walkway posing as if they are part of the Easter Parade
on Fifth Ave! Perhaps they are the fall equivalent. I join a woman standing in a
walker at the Basket Cases, a couple made entirely of baskets down to the little
red hen sitting next to her mistress. I smile my second smile of the day as my
eyes meet the elderly woman’s.

As I stroll along I see Uptown Mummy, her face swathed in bandages and Salsa
Girls in their red and pink shimmy dresses. People swirl around me and I feel as
if I am part of a choreographed living picture. A women crosses in front of me
dressed in jeans and barefoot and takes a picture of Fall-ing in Love, which is
two scarecrows, one a man with a pumpkin head dressed in an orange tweed jacket
and orange slacks, being ogled by a woman in a gold dress with a fur scarf. A
man takes a picture of his girlfriend in front of the clock-faced wedding
couple. Children run, jump, pose among the scarecrows, the flowers and the bees.

I strike up a conversation with two women, one a tourist from Arizona. They
smile as they talk of the beauty of the gardens and the fun that the scarecrows
create. A young woman who is pushing an old woman in a wheel chair tells me this
is their third trip to the Arboretum and this time they bought a membership.

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is my second home. I walk here through the
seasons, my favorite being winter. I love the cold and the quiet. The dancing
statues that are barely visible in the summer stand out against the white snow
and the fairies dress them in knit scarves and hats! The fountains that today
spray sparkles in the air, are in the winter silenced, leaving the rocks waiting
for water.

My back pain has definitely eased but the heaviness in my heart has not. In my
head I go through my day and the rest of the week and think about what needs to
be done. Then I remember this feeling and its cause. In a few days it will be
Rosh Hashanah, the birthday of the world. It is a holiday that many non-Jews
think is celebratory but it is not. It is the time of introspection and making
vows to do better, live better, behave to others, better. But that is not why I
am sad. It is because although I have lived in this country for forty-four years, on Rosh Hashanah I always feel like ten-year-old Ann walking to the synagogue with her parents. I am homesick for a life that has long passed, the gathering of a handful of Jewish families who live in this small town on the northern border of South Africa. Every year this sadness creeps up on me and I am not sure why. But what I have to do today is acknowledge it. So I increase my pace and smile at the ten-year-old Ann I see amongst the joyful children and let myself be.



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