we all fall down

December 10th, 2021

Yesterday it rained. It rained all day, which is a major event in and of itself, a genuine freak of California weather. When it rains here in late fall and early winter, it doesn’t only rain drops. It rains leaves. The leaves—oh my goodness, yes—are ready to fall, needing only a plonk of water to let loose.

That’s how it feels these days: like we’re all ready to drop, quit, let go and fall apart. I spoke to someone this week who could do nothing but wipe her eyes and cry. She couldn’t say a word. Even when things are getting better they feel worse and going forward feels backward and when will it all be over?

And then I catch a glimpse of what I’ve always known about this time of year: it’s dark, it’s dank, wet, windy, and never-ending. There is no break, no rest, no peace, and no place to find. That is, until there is, only it’s not what we were looking for, not what we were wishing for, not better, not like before. We were looking for a place and time we remembered and what we got was a lean-to, a shack, a roof with a hole in it, a disaster of Biblical proportions.

We all suffer losses. Some lose what they love. And some lose what is better off gone. Either way, there are absences, hollows, and estrangements. Lines crossed, words said, luck run out, spirits broken, hearts bereft.

Before the new year comes, 400,000 leaves will drop from the sycamores in my backyard. (It’s a fact.) I always think: oh no, not again, not now, not me. But what will I do? I will love the trees, the leaves, and especially the rake. I will love the sky, the wind, the rain, and the pond scoop. I will love the fall and the fallen. I will love my life, which is yours too, and I will cry your tears.


  1. That was just beautiful. Thank you.

    Comment by Dee — December 10, 2021 @ 11:57 am

  2. I love this photo.

    Comment by Bonnie Rae — December 10, 2021 @ 5:43 pm

  3. I have a friend dealing with cancer and not a good situation. She just went thru her husband dying of pancreatic cancer after maybe 6 mos and before that she was diagnosed with uterine cancer which came back after he died . It it so sad I will look for other writings that I can share with her This one may not work but I like it very much

    Comment by beautiful love the photo as well — December 10, 2021 @ 11:14 pm

  4. I am thinking of friends once so close now drifting away into silence. The strange unease of the unanswered call, SMS or email. The not knowing why and having to just accept that. Thanking you for your words once again.

    Comment by Nick Webb — December 11, 2021 @ 1:14 am

  5. Wow, Nick, you describe beautifully what we have probably all experienced, having friends “drift away into silence”. Thanks. Karen, you describe a time of year that many experience as very difficult in a very uplifting, “we are all in this together” kind of way. Thanks for that and for the life transformations that have occurred for me since recently reading (experiencing) your book, “hand wash cold”!

    Comment by George Hill — December 11, 2021 @ 8:43 am

  6. Spot on. Thank you Karen.

    Comment by Mark — December 11, 2021 @ 9:46 am

  7. Thank you. Beautiful.

    Comment by Simone — December 11, 2021 @ 10:35 am

  8. I love you, and I love sycamores too! They smell of home. There are 3 a few blocks from my home here in Canada. They are out of place, no doubt, but they are just where they need to be for me. I saved a handful of the fallen leaves until they crumpled and turned to dust. I’ll wait patiently for their return.

    Comment by Eva Brune — December 11, 2021 @ 3:17 pm

  9. ‘Could do nothing but cry’. There are days like that. Sometimes weeks.

    Yes, dark, dreary and very wet here (in the PNW.). I’m counting the days till the Winter Solstice and the return of the light.

    No matter the depth of darkness, the light returns. I just have to hold on, unlike your Sycamore leaves.

    With the light comes new life, so I count and cling. knowing whether I fall, or not, with or without me, in a matter of days, the light will come.

    Hold on!

    Comment by MJ — December 12, 2021 @ 7:18 am

  10. There’s a man, long, gray coat, dark trousers, masked face, arm with hand near face, perhaps saying “shhh, quiet, listen.” He is a giant for sure, overshadowing the tea house, an appearance, once seen can’t be unseen!

    Comment by Larry — December 16, 2021 @ 8:18 am

  11. Yes, the mysterious man in black, otherwise known as “the oak tree in the garden.” Can’t unsee!

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — December 16, 2021 @ 8:21 pm

  12. I’ve read this piece aloud at our breakfast table and shared it with many friends. We’re all crying and raking, in one way or another. It helps to be reminded that even when we’re alone we’re not alone. And the effort you put into writing here, sharing your words, healing our weary souls with kindnes is a gift. Just wanted to say thank you.

    Comment by Katrina — December 19, 2021 @ 3:28 am

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