Squirrel, dismayed by defoliation, to tree: "Have you taken leave of your senses?"
Tree: "No. We've taken census of our leaves." [rimshot of falling acorns]
Tree humor. Gotta love it.
I have been thinking about leaves. And thinking about the cycle of leaves leaving in October so there can be leafing in April, then leaving again....
I get flummoxed by spring, can't keep up with it. But fall has this thoughtful, austere, pace that lends itself to rocksitting on Spy Pond in a funnel of sun and looking around at the slow weft of colors and the rowing scullers, and feeling that tinge of regret, because it's probably the end of these moments of warmth, or soon will be. It's going to get colder and barer, these leaves are going to pass their peak of magnificence soon, and time feels really valuable just now.
I've been looking at leaves. Front, back, through. If you hold one up, not right up to the sun, but tilted a little, maybe 30 degrees—it glows. It becomes a light-reflecting mechanism. And you remember that this always was a friend of the sun—more, a collaborator, a kind of lover, light-made. (How does photosynthesis work? Light + CO2 = sugar + oxygen? But the leaf knows what to do with sunlight, not just bask in it.)
And then if you take a really close look at a leaf, even one still on the tree, you see how brittle it is around the edges, or tough as old leather. Or it has spots of mold, or holes and tears, or a see-through lattice of cells, or something that might be a tiny dessicated insect egg on the back. And if you look long enough, it becomes bigger, like an urban map, like a city seen from an airplane. The tiny cells stained different colors, indicating wards voting for different candidates, or burnt-out neighborhoods...
And you realize how close this leaf already is to soil, it's changing from a treeling to a groundling. But what's confusing is how beautiful it is. You don't want it to fall. If it falls, it dies. The tree, however, is not so sentimental. The tree knows its necessity. Which is sleep, not death. Hence the dry layer of cells between the tree and the petiole, the unsentimental abscission. Don't take it personally. Can't afford to carry, to nourish, to be nourished. Fluids freeze. Time to leave.
Still. Not yet. For now, it's still big picture, still storytelling with shadows and light, warmth and cool, caw and katydid, sun and wind. An old story about getting old and getting ready to go, after turning on a night light: cell by cell, leaf by leaf, and tree by tree.