Wilderness in the Urban

“You have a leaf in your hair.” The checker points toward my head, having scanned my last item. Her comment catches me by surprise, nudging me out of my patterned customer routine. I hesitate. I reach up to check. In my hand is a crinkly, brown paper birch leaf. I examine it. The person in line behind me pushes forward, imperceptibly irritated. The checker looks at the leaf as I roll it between my fingers. I am pleased that I have a piece of our tiny green planet in my hair.

I want to tell the checker how wonderful it is to be riding my bike through an asphalt jungle of buildings on the first windy day of Autumn. I want to share with the person in line behind me, how the trees are losing their leaves in horizontal cascades. I want to recall the times when I have had other leaves in my hair, coming off of bamboo in the Himalayas or willows in Alaska. I might just maybe call over to the guy stocking the produce and share with him how cottonwood leaves smell as they tumble downward in a Canyonlands November.

I am pleased that a bit of wild, a sliver of connection to my primitive past, has landed in my hair. This small leaf reminds me that there is more wildness out there, beyond steel girders and traffic signals and sewer gratings. I want to ask the people in the bakery department if they know that it is windy outside. I want to know if they might walk outside on their mid-morning break. I want to warn them that the urban anomaly that is a leaf might also land in their hair.

The checker looks at me. I look at the checker. She asks me if I would like cash back. I reply no. The man behind me sighs, audibly relieved. I smile at both of them, so glad that they were able to share this moment with me.

I walk outside to my bike. I glance around momentarily. For the moment, I am alone. I reach up to check for another leaf.

Jeffrey Post-Holmberg is a contributing writer to the River Notes Blog. He is the owner and therapist at Two Rivers Counseling. Jeffrey is currently working on figuring out how to surf the ten foot waves near Manzanita, Oregon without getting seasick.