Last Leaves


Somewhat presumptuous to pick the last leaves.  They fall almost in a normal curve _ first a few, more and more, a whole bunch, less and less, and then a few singletons that may last until April.  But at some point, you know they are mostly done, and the few remaining on the trees turn into curiosities.

We can ascribe all kinds of deeper meaning to this, and construct stories as O.Henry did.  But you don’t really need much more than your basic instincts to realize that something has changed and the world will soon be different than it was.

You can almost feel the leaves dropping one by one.  Sometimes that is true, but often they are ripped in great bunches by the increasingly howling gales from the north as one storm system chases another.  Sensible people stay inside at such times and miss the drama on the branches.  The next day, we notice, there are a lot fewer up there than there were the day before.

These are the weeks of full transition, just as you get the sudden blossoming when the earth warms in the spring.  The difference is in our inner perceptions _ we see this as a spiral into cold and death and tend to get depressed knowing the sun continues to go away for another month.  Time grows darker, and we worry about making through the coming season.

Summer barbeques in the parking lot are just memories, most of the boats are secured or out of the water entirely.  Nobody expects good sailing days to return until spring, and for most people it would be an even rarer coincidence if they happened to be on a weekend.  So the yacht club goes quiet, except for the inevitable bustle of blowing leaves and winterizing the equipment.

I like looking at boats, but I hate being on them _ the minute I am on board I feel trapped and I can’t wait to get out.  It’s a peculiar form of nautical claustrophobia.  Maybe like the ancients in arcadia I simply need the presence of dryads near me all the time.

Lonely guy.  Tough not to become anthropomorphic about almost anything.  We have a built in sympathy that often gets in the way of reality (whatever that may be.)

So that one leaf is symbolic of _ well of whatever I want to make it symbolic of.  And your story would be different.  And most of the time, both of us are way too busy to bother making stories about everything we run into.  I think it’s a miracle that we can ever agree on anything at all.

Across the remnants of the mill pond, still mostly fresh water, the startled ducks and geese have just flown away.  Boats loom in the salt water across the dam bulkhead.

Quiet little inlets seem worlds away from everyone else.  Yet, like almost everywhere around me, I find signs of heavy use even here _ a well-tramped mud path, for example.  Maybe photographers trying for unusual seasonal beauty to sell at the fairs, maybe old bearded philosophers, the imagination can insert just about anything.  Simply focusing on reality of dry stalks and stripped branches against blue sky is often the hardest thing you can do.


Bittersweet, appropriate name for the season as well.  In a few weeks the berries will lose some color and start drying, but for now it’s a happy reminder of harvests that are pretty much done by now.
Now that we don’t have the agricultural cycle to ground us any more, it’s easy to remember that this time of year was a kind of respite after the long and arduous months of rapid harvest and preservation.  Not yet into the salted and dried staples of winter, but very little to get out of the fields, by now even the potatoes should be safely stored.  If the provisions looked adequate for the coming months, thanksgiving was surely called for.

We still have a patch of woods here and there _ this happens to be an obscure bit of Mill Dam park _ accessible to the public.  In my youth, you could take off into the woods and go for miles in any direction, but nowadays on the East Coast you get about three hundred yards at most before you hit someone’s property. 

Fortunately, this being an old town, a lot had been preserved in parks and public spaces.  I feel sorry for the newer suburbs, often planned with nothing more in mind than endless similar houses on zoned plots of land, and the only way to get away is to drive a pretty good distance.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s