Last week, a spectacular autumn leaf fell right at my feet. Bright red and veined with summer green, the colors glowed and sparkled in the sun. I was immediately struck by the beauty of it: the intricate lacing of the veins, the veridian hue of the chlorophyll, and the darkening oxidation of dying cellulose. I tucked it into my sketchbook for posterity. It is dry now, and the colors have lost their sparkle and their intensity, but it still carries the memory of the spark that caught my eye. I am looking upon it now, and I suddenly see the parallel of this single fallen leaf and the grander milieu that is Autumn itself. All the seasonal progression of Fall is echoed in the microcosm of this single leaf.
I knew autumn was coming early in August. Though the temperatures were still exceedingly warm, I could sense it: a gradual change in the light, a shift in the shadows, and a leeching of color in the trees, the sky, and the waters. All this: a distinct sensation of the sun’s waning power.
Ever since my mid-teens living in Idaho, I could sense the light shift before the temperatures fell and the trees turned. It is always the same. First, the intensity weakens: even though the heat is strong, and I sweat and long for ice water to drink, the sun doesn’t seem quite so bright, and it takes a few seconds longer for my skin to feel the burn.
Then, the shadows lengthen and become bluer. Intangible fingers reach for the hidden spaces that a few weeks before could not touch. The shades scattered within the leafy boughs of the tallest trees grow darker and more mysterious. The sky begins to pale. At the height of summer, early in July, the heavens are a bright, clear, glorious cobalt blue, thick and saturated, soft like a velvet blanket. But come August, weeks after the Solstice, the velvet lifts, the blue grows thin, perhaps transparent. It pales to a weaker, whiter blue, like cerulean. The soft velvety thickness of the color is gone, replaced by a thin gauze: wispy and fluttering in the breeze–the blushing veil of Winter’s Bride.
It’s all so subtle, so delicate, and so slow, this progression of summer into fall, that I often wonder if I am imagining it, romanticizing the cycles of Life and Nature’s call. But when the forests turn to gold and scarlet, and the temperatures fall with the leaves, I know that somehow all I see is true, even if I do romanticize my perceptions with some spiritual awe.
I speak of this, because Pool suggested I write about some of the things I notice that others may not see. I have a hard time believing I am alone in my observations, but no one I know speaks of this. Perhaps it is to subtle and too gradual a change for anyone to pay much attention to, and perhaps also too commonplace to make note of. But I notice it every year, and every year I feel blessed to witness this soft glory, for the shifting of the seasons is probably the most beautiful thing on this Earth.
And that little red leaf with the summer-green veins, so bright when it fell and now dim with death, encapsulates everything I’ve seen around me within its fragile, delicate form.
How strange! An ocean wave, a dragonfly, a grapefruit, and an autumn leaf: how do I always seem to find life’s deepest meanings in the smallest of things?*
(*I will post hyperlinks to relevant passages once I have access to a computer. I do the vast majority of my posting via cellphones.)