Nov 12 2008

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Fallen Leaves

Posted at 9:45 am under Blog Post

A couple weeks ago, I stood beneath the old maple tree in my back yard amid a shower of leaves.  A steady breeze coming on the heels of a hard frost was doing the trick.  My old maple is one of the last trees to give up its leaves.  On that day it relented.  The sun was shining through a partly cloudy sky and each leaf shouted orange as it tumbled to the ground.  Hundreds, thousands of leaves rained down.  I was certain that the tree would be naked the next day.  But a tight cluster of leaves in the top left quarter of it refused to budge.

I looked up once while raking yesterday to see how many leaves were still clinging there.  Remarkably, the tree was clear of them.  Can’t say when exactly the last few leaves came down.  I missed that show.  But as I raked it occurred to me that “stick season” had arrived in Vermont as it usually does, without fanfare.  And winter is right around the corner.  I raked for a couple hours, then went inside to warm up as the faintest flurry of snow fell from the dark gray clouds overhead.

When my wife and I drove to Montpelier the other day, fresh snow blanketed the mountains and a dusting of it covered the grass on both sides of the highway.  The landscape all around us was a pitching sea of naked trees.  It was easy to imagine happy hunters creeping through them.  A little higher up, the earliest skiers will be at it soon, if they aren’t already.

There are no big snowstorms in the forecast, but every Vermonter knows they’re coming.  Winter in this part of the world is like that.  Although it gives plenty of advance warning to those of us paying close attention, it still shows up one day like an uninvited guest.  Sometimes that guest goes away for a few weeks then comes back.  Sometimes it stays until spring.  Either way, it pays to be ready.

I’ve insulated my house, brought in my outdoor planters, and dug out my snow shovels.  My winter boots are handy, as are my winter clothes.  Already my thoughts have turned inward as they usually do this time of year.  Winter is the best season for pondering philosophical matters.  It’s easy to read, write and think when the days are short and the windows have frosted over.  I used to hate winter but now I look forward to it.  I get a lot of literary work done when the snow flies.

I’ll gather up a few more bags of leaves later on today then put away my rake.  If there’s time afterward, I’ll go for a long walk with my dog through nearby sticks just to listen to the clatter of branches against each other in the late autumn wind.  That’s a sound easy to hear when the leaves are down.

A couple days ago, a diehard pansy was still flowering in the corner of my garden.  Now it’s gone.  I’m stocking up on root vegetables and planning meals that call for them.  Best not to fight it.  Best to smile at the 4:30 sundown, fully aware of the implication.  The geese have headed south and the leaves are all on the ground.  Dull brown, dry and crinkled, fallen leaves used to sadden me, but not any more.  Now they look magnificent.  They clearly illustrate nature’s endless cycle of growth and decay.  They show the circle completed.

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Fallen Leaves”

  1. Philon 16 Nov 2008 at 9:58 am 1

    Thanks for the reminder Walter. I’m getting my boots, my shovels, my hats, mittens, and thermals out today. This unseasonably warm weather is one big set up for a big punch line. As I told my family yesterday, we need to embrace winter and we need to say it out loud: I love winter. Yes I do. We love winter. Yes we do.

    Here’s one for your grand kids:
    What did the big furry hat say to the warm woolly scarf?
    You hand around while I go on ahead.

  2. Walton 17 Nov 2008 at 1:44 pm 2

    Don’t forget the antifreeze for the car. Methinks it’s gonna be a cold one.

  3. Andrewon 26 Nov 2008 at 10:01 am 3

    Nice. The type of post I read your blog for. I feel like putting on a scarf, but it’s sunny here and heading into the upper 60s. My kind of weather.
    The grass has gone dormant, the foliage on the young cypress trees on the north side of our house are turning brown. Yesterday I spotted my first goldfinch at the feeders. Haven’t seen one of those for 8 months. Last week it was the chipping sparrows that returned. The cycle is complete.
    Hope you and Judy are well.

  4. Walton 26 Nov 2008 at 11:52 am 4

    I actually thought of you, Andrew, when I wrote this piece. That’s scary. Zen moments in the back yard?