Leaves, at the end of their tenure, seem to have personalities. They resemble us. They display bold colors and patterns. They cling—no! Don’t wanna! They yield (how gallant! how mature!) and fall. They are driven along the sidewalk relentlessly and made to whirl around in pointless little cyclones by an invisible taskmaster. Where they finally settle they lie like deadbeats or fallen heroes. For Halloween give them a trumpet; for Thanksgiving salute them with Taps, and a parting palindrome. “Be them. Leave them be.”
I am taking November’s measure week by week this time around, which is good because the month is moody and doesn’t neatly submit to generalizations, except maybe that one. Some days are placid, others wild; some are balmy, others cold; some are Technicolor oaters, others monochromatic film noirs. But one bold statement I will make: November is about subtraction. The bravery of the few; the bare beauty of less. Sans leaves, sans daylight, sans crickets, sans everything. Well, not everything; got carried away there. Canvasback and ring-necked ducks are here. Shakespeare’s here, for sure. Especially in Sonnet #73:
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consumed with that which it was nourish'd by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
Of course, he was what when he wrote that, 35? No matter. Let us bid adieu to those who take their leave; to the last cricket who has just enough left to scratch a chirp, weak but brave, and is bidding adieu to us from deep in a bush. It has been keeping up its narration since May, spooling and unspooling the tale of time. It must be tired now. Goodnight, cricket.
And to the few remaining leaves on my tree across the street, and to the fallen ones lying around its trunk: You did a good job. All that a tree could ask. The next generation will hope to do as well. Goodnight, leaves.
And goodnight, dwindling daylight. We don’t begrudge you ditching us for the southern hemisphere. We know you’ll be welling back up in December. Well well, daylight.
Coda: Minus sun, I’m.
Another sunset coda. This is a solo number. I was walking along the bike path by Spy Pond, not far from the above-mentioned cricket. The sun was very low. I stopped to admire the brilliant yellow maple leaves, translucent with sunglow and splashed with shadows of fellow leaves, behind, below, above, in subtle motion. The sun was setting. The lower leaves lost their reflected light, their shadows, went opaque. The tier of leaves above them still held their light, like the upper windows of a house, but soon, ehh, their lights subtly dulled, too. Finally the topmost leaves were left, grinning in the sun, nyah-nyah, still got ours, until, nope. Gone. No mas. A sunset by subtraction.
Happy birthday, Dotch!