It is fall.
I stand under maples and aspen and oak, transfixed by their explosion, as organic shrapnel lands, with a subtle river below serving as witness, and the here and now in full blown immediacy petitions the court reporter to record this war crime.
I cannot move. I stare.
Indian summer wanes. Daylight flees. In response, as if this is just another liturgy in the church year, the last leaves fall and tumble earthward in full surrender. This is quite a sight, all this foliage giving up under a white flag, standing down to recognize loss where demise represents only another pin-wheeled whirlwind.
“Whatever Tim.” Taking a drag on a cigarette. Maybe a dip of Skoal. Or maybe you’re just impatient, like you’ve already seen this a thousand times and you’re already so over it.
“C’mon. Let’s go.”
But I remain. Still, in waiting, staring, and of course, clichéd in the land of spellbound.
Two leaves remain.
Another leaf is released. Pauses. Midair, then catches the breeze and finds lift and motion, and then, like a one night stand that might have lasted forever but didn’t, it falls suspended in disbelief that something so good could be over so quickly.
I know that feeling.
And then, just one bright, orange-red, five-pointed star remains.
One last leaf, coloring my view, hanging on and set on a seasonal spin cycle that floats right before my eyes. The twirl composed of cells, and photosynthesis and the flitter toward a reckoning with decomposition anywhere, and yes, this must be, and will be, a date with elsewhere.
The journey of letting go, motivated by wind and fate. I hear the crunch of gravel, and it grows fainter, and I know he’s so over it.
Over the fascination with simple and patient and waiting for that last leaf to leave us barren and naked on this cliff overlooking the Selkirks.
These moments are what suspend me from melancholy and pensive, because I recognize that if I stand here long enough, maybe I will know why I’d rather stare at this leaf than look at him.
What is colorful and brilliant today may not be so compelling tomorrow. Leaves. Men. C D Jackets that will turn into MP3 files and then most likely holograms of Brittany Spears that someday soon I could download right onto this cliff. And then accidently give a strong push. Beauty, my addiction, always leaves me wanting to push something off a cliff.
A leaf-- my stand in for the transience of beauty.
Today I stare transfixed at the object of my desire. Tomorrow, I might not even notice its existence, and this haunts me, I feel cheap and reckless, non-committal and completely, like just another shallow consumer purchasing unnecessary plastic things or rounding up to the next thousandth sexual conquest.
One leaf still clings to one branch. I see that branch as life support. One leaf comprised of dancing color showing off death’s embrace at the end of a big, bad ass stick. An ugly protuding stick.
I realize that I am actively considering hospice for nothing more than future organic compost.
I’m really a mess this year aren’t I?
What? You weren’t expecting death to enter into this discussion? Oh, come on now. As if.
Writing of fall and endings isn’t just another writing cliché that happens to begin and end with some sappy rendition of nature’s perfection and that all the seasons are important. Screw Ecclesiastes anyway. Blow me right past the Psalms. Sometimes Bible verses are worse than Hallmark. There is not always a time for everything. Sometimes the uninvited inevitability of change deserves a good beer soaking. A good excuse of getting royally pissed.
Writers can be so predictable. They write on and on and on that fall is when you most expect things to die. But really, some of us, each year are caught off guard. We really weren’t expecting it. It did sneak up on us. We were shocked by the suddenness of it all. And we want to throw things in response.
Funny that. Death, color, and football all in the same essay. Who knew?
Especially now, with such a promising and distracting blue sky above and this crisp boldness that highlights this unique moment in earth’s history. I look down and I see the 99%.
All the other damn leaves. I see that they have already given up and it feels hopeless. And then I look up, and the branch holding the last hold out is also now barren. I’ve missed the moment I’ve been waiting for. The last leaf is gone too. Not even the one percent are sustainable.
My horn is honking. I bet he’s smoked the entire pack by now. There will be butts. In piles. Near my truck.
I both loathe and lust after Autumn, the way a person maybe wants to sneak another drink before getting sober, knowing that nothing can be this good, forever, but still--wanting just one more swig. Even if leads to the next and the next. That’s how I feel about him. And faith. And the 1%
Indian Summer is like that. I bargain, to God, please, just another day. Please. One more blue sky, T shirt, no wind, no snow, no rain, perfect, don’t forget how this felt, October day.
I don’t want to get in the truck. I don’t want to go anywhere. I want to stay here and waste my life away. Staring at a leaf.
I want warm days. Perfect crisp nights. Windows open, coyotes howling, a breeze against skin that doesn’t immediately sweat it away, and that ability--because it’s so bright, that I can stall the awareness that things are getting darker earlier now. Even as a week passes. That warmth is a bit more allusive. That a single gale can take twenty minutes of layering, fleece, and hats and finally gloves, just to push back against what’s coming.
I don’t know, especially not this year, what exactly I am supposed to make of Fall. I want to hold on to the color, the longer days, the now of this newness that is already old.
I love snow. Until I don’t. Each year ”don’t” seems to come earlier and earlier. Someone will start circulating the first email snowball fight, and there will be that email about the Californian or Floridian who is just loving their first season of snow and I will need to hate on them.
And then, I will think, “no, don’t hate. Let it ruin them”, because I know it will.
There will be an “I told ya so” when they are committed two months later, but only after ramming that brand new snow plow into a travel brochure for the Bahamas at the local Safeway.
It’s a ritual. Just like these thousand points of first draft and the pictures I keep taking and posting, as if—my life depends on it…which, as you know, it sort of does. Because now that the last leaf is gone, and so, just for the record is he, I will need that picture, just to remember.
That I once considered trading in that moment for the impatience of him. And that I also considered the value of hospice care. For a leaf.