Maine has fall leaves….again….. proof we are still collecting sun in the way Maine is famous for doing. They’re hanging, falling, or piling up at the curb. We rake, kick, are in awe of them, and they constantly get mentioned their for an ability to draw so called “peeping” tourists. One of my longtime favorite leaf-lyrics has Nat King Cole singing about them, “drifting by his window.” Maine’s leaves are fueled by genuine solar energy.
On rainy fall days the leaves from a distance look like a giant hung his wet socks as they’ve come out of the wash, unsorted. Other times they look like sentinels standing aloof from all those other green fools, guarding against the onslaught of the cold. I never can remember if color spreads from the lowest branches working up, or if it comes from the top down. Top down sounds more logical, but all logic eludes me when thinking about leaves. Leaves in their extravagant fall color seem to me a chaotic riot. They gradually get noisy, then fade to timid; and when they lose their punch, they lose their very selves. I mean they fall.
In Nat King Cole’s classic version of Autumn Leaves, the lyric I remember first is, “and I miss you most of all, my darling, when Autumn Leaves start to fall.” A song of love, but also a song of loss. He has lost the summer and the sun. So there’s color and beauty, but we all know how transitory fall is. There’s something about the fall that stimulates all of our senses at once, and pushes us toward memories. We mix sounds, scents, and colors which make it fundamentally poetic. Leaves fall, and bonfires are lit. Apples ripen and cider pressed. As we long for time to just “stop”, we naturally remember times gone-by. We know in our hearts the wind also brings loss.
Maybe we feel the loss because the colors and senses all tend towards tones of fire. The sound of leaf-rakes at work sound like rhythmic snare brushes on a drum-set, and the reds, oranges, smoke, and bonfires all combine to steal us away. In my memory leaf-fires were lit and in fall they really were dangerous. Maybe it is wise not to burn them. Spooky stories happen around them. Spooky because of halloween, but also because straw men made of corn stalks point toward mazes, labyrinths in fields where the thrill of being lost and found is fundamental. No exaggeration here, how sensual the fall becomes at its best. When plants wave flags of surrender, the very scent of the air has a bite to it that isn’t simply caused by the evening cool. Kicking mounds of leaves in the street is like hitting the cymbal on that old-fashioned trap set. Makes us all think we are drummers. I feel more than silly trying to put fall into words. My excuse is that I worked in the south for years, having missed all of this, and feel like I am seeing it fresh. But each view is like recognizing an old friend.