Folio 1 – We take it all so personal – the leaf that delicately dances from the tallest tree and lands on your lap. Perfectly an oak leaf with the russet brown shiny skin. You happened to crane your neck way up to the sky that late autumn afternoon when its turquoise canvas could not blind you. The sun had withdrawn its embrace and sat companionably with the earth as you looked dispassionately into the heavens. Only for perspective and levity, but not for revelation. One leaf, alone, doing a slow, graceful pirouette that lasted a minute, two? It was a performance and your neck hurt by the time this leaf fairy landed on your lap. You think of the country song by Engelbert Humperdinck, Please release me, let me go…You’d be a fool to cling to me…So release me and let me love again…Falling leaves, some in their prime ripe with color, a few innocent and green, and some old, brittle and brown. They all lay down for love of earth. Timing is everything. Limbs tired, no juice left, the wind knocked out of you. We take it all so personal.
Folio 2 – I walk, or rather limp, through the woods that I’ve walked in for twenty-six years. Tree skins, these leaves, are now every hue of brown, lying thickly on the path, ready for decomposing. Different shapes and sizes, they fell silently and alone. A few balding trees shimmer and shake with golden yellow leaves, the last to go. And there are small bushes with bright peachy red leaves. It’s a cloudy day, the rain finished, and the few colorful leaves cast a spell on me. I stop and admire, photograph, and gently rub a leaf between my fingers. But I can’t ignore the deep piles of perishing leaves I walk through, their scent an autumn intoxication I inhale each year. This death fragrance lingers in my senses as much as the ripening apple orchards this time of year. They will nourish the roots of trees as much as the apples will nourish my body. These woods are home, familiar, and I visit them more than I do family. Somehow I believe they know me well, too, their limbs lifting in the wind to greet me. Sometimes a tree will drop a leaf in my hair that I don’t find until I lie down in bed and feel the crunch on my pillow. I love trees, their circling, not around, but up and down, their sighing, their colors, even if death must come. I trust them even when their roots, buried in dying leaves and New Hampshire thin soil, cause me to stumble. This autumn, I’m preoccupied with my upcoming hip surgery and so I stop often, but not only because of a sore hip. I’m telling them I might not see them for awhile, probably not until they’re sleeping beneath the snow. I must walk right after, the doctor says, but not in the woods where there are roots, rocks, and uneven paths. I must walk on even, straight paths. I’ll miss the wild, natural orderly chaos of the woods for a time, the way they welcome me into a good therapy session each time I visit. I read tree leaves like a fortune teller reading tea leaves and a dendrochronologist reading tree rings and usually walk out of the woods with awareness and a story or two. And never do I leave without saying thank you, especially as a writer of books whose pages come from pines, spruces, hemlocks, firs, birch, hickory, and more. I’ll be back, I tell them, and meanwhile, their leaves, colorful or pungent, are enfolded within my heart.
Folio 3 – My protagonist, Catharine, in my upcoming novel, Catharine, Queen of the Tumbling Waters, to be released in the spring of 2023, is also a tree lover and tree leaf reader (read my prior blog to know more about this real life character). A series of autumns in her life bring much change and she, too, ponders the resonance of autumn leaves upon the pages of her heart. This is an excerpt from Chapter Twenty-Eight:
I’m sitting on the river bank after my last invigorating dip into the icy water. I’ve wrapped myself in a blanket before I return to my clothes and complex life with captives and George Croghan and his friend, Edward Pollard. I watch the river as the wind carries maple, birch, and oak leaves gently on its surface. They float like tiny colorful boats down the river away from their mother trees. I, too, have fallen from my source that rooted me as a Montour and native custom. What this next life is I don’t know and hope I can surrender as freely as the trees and leaves. I look up into the nearby trees and note soon they’ll be as naked as I am right now. These trees are at ease in releasing and I honor them with a quiet prayer. I feel a chill and quickly dress to return to my home full of people who are of every color.
Oh, mournful season that delights the eyes, Your farewell beauty captivates my spirit. I love the pomp of Nature’s fading dyes, The forests garmented in gold and purple, The rush of noisy wind, and the pale skies Half-hidden by the clouds in darkling bellows, And the rare sun-ray and the early frost, And threats of grizzled Winter, heard and lost” ~Pushkin
Tell all the truth but tell it slant --
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind --
- Emily Dickinson