Winter is coming. It’s not cooler nights or the sun falling like a lead weight to the horizon. Nor is it geese signaling high in the air as they barrel south. No, it’s the leaf bags stacked around the house. Autumn is a beautiful time of year, full of anticipation.
Leaves trickle down singly and then like a rainstorm. The deluge blows down the street, tumbling as it goes. The trick is always to corral them before rain turns them into a sodden lump, adding to their bulk
Fall is also proclaimed by the arrival of tulip bulbs from the Holland Bulb Company. The only day you have time to plant them it’s usually 40 degrees and misting. Planting is an act of faith in the predictability of life. It is fitting that this year’s leaves shelter the promise of life waiting for spring.
Raking begins early with Basswood leaves. The tree is always the last to put on leaves and the first to give them up. In some ways, it is like a hesitant insecure person, encouraged by warm days, but all too willing to give up when adversity strikes.
Oak leaves never give up. They resist the squalls of early winter. Sleet and driving winds are just a challenge to them to hang on a little longer. Unwilling to give up their perches on the lowest limbs, they are reluctant to fall from the heights and miss the view. They finally give up when pushed off by new growth in the spring.
Piles of leaves reflect seasons of life. A task entered into now with resignation, was once viewed with great expectation as a pool we could dive into. The crunch and crackling grit of a brown mountain mixed with pungent smells of maple, oak and box elder dampened our noses after they were touched by early morning dew.
In other times, before the specter of air pollution, the fall air was cut with the scent of an incinerated summer. An older neighbor down the street would put on a fantastic display of rolling, smoky clouds. The leaves as they burned would add shading and variety to the flames. A light breeze would intensify and speed the burn, frustrating the efforts of an irate housewife a block away at keeping her sheets on the line fresh and clean. Nowadays, we bag the summer in green polymers, and cart them away, out of sight, out of mind, dulling our senses to the full circle of the seasons.
As the last yellow leaf falls from the Maple in the back yard, the rest of the world hidden from view in the green of summer is seen unhindered. The black and grey of trees waiting to be awakened by another spring day offset naked ground and sky above. There is anticipation. The snow falls, at first light and barely visible, later, heavy and covering all around. The leaf bags gone, fall is over, but spring lies in wait under the white blanket.