Back from a trip to the Berkshires in Connecticut and western Mass., a place of broad hills be-sweatered in colors, golds and greens, coppers, russets, the odd little burst of red standing out, and as the sun sinks, pools of shadow in the hollows. There is a collaboration between the sun and the leaf. For two seasons it was for the benefit of green: a broad, tree-by-tree manufacture. And then it goes the other way. New work order: autumn. The ebb of green, revealing yellow undercoat. The rash of red. the tag of brown. So the trees get busy, working independently, working as a mountain, fractal coloration in which each leaf cell is tree and each tree is a cell.
Driving along the Mass. Pike past a wall of reds and coppers and it's like passing a blush. The brief feeling that you're witnessing an emotion, sex, an oh-my moment that reminds me of a donkey I saw years ago in a farmyard in Oregon, just a brief glimpse from a car I'd hitched a ride with, but it was posed on a ridge like a stallion feeling its oats.
I remember that trip. Discovering the west with a poncho tent and a Sterno stove. Walking the Grand Canyon at night. Staying at the Rainbow Tribe commune in Drain, Oregon. Hopping a flatcar in Bakersfield, Cal. I was more of a traveler in those days.
I kept seeing travelers in the Berkshires. On a walk I happened to look up just as three cottony fluffs from a milkweed took flight, all joined together like a trio of aeronauts, sailing away from the old home field of driftwood-gray pods, riding the air current until it let them off in the nearby marsh, maybe a hundred yards away. But for a minute it was a journey with no end, could have carried them all the way to the Andes.
And later, a rare sound and sight that used to be more common: the windborne gabble of a high, ragged formation of geese, high enough to take their time crossing the sky, apparently real migrators, traveling miles, not just "migrating" from one local pond to another.
And of course, the short, momentous journey of a leaf detaching from its axil and casting its lot with the beckoning wind. Come on, dude! Time to go!
Meanwhile, up on the broad hills, sleep knits up the raveled sleeve of care and the sun makes love to the leaf.