Friday, October 23, 2009
I grew up calling this season "fall," but the leaves are mostly still on the trees on this wet and rainy day. A friend mentioned crunching in crunchy leaves the other day - and I fondly remember crunchy leaves from my childhood.
You see, my school was called "Oakwood," which referred to the gigantic oak trees surrounding it. This was a school surrounded by vast stretches of lawn, too. Of course, we had some playground equipment: two teeter-totters (you might have called them seesaws, a word I learned from books), some "monkey bars" to hang from and climb on, a few swings, and a rickety merry-go-round which regularly deposited splinters in hands and legs of me and my fellow students. None of the equipment would pass inspection today - this was long before liability insurance became a major expense in a public school's budget.
Yes, I realize the trees were probably not as big as I remember. They were big enough to drop their crunchy brown leaves all over the school grounds in the fall. Enough leaves to shuffle through, running, and playing tag. Enough leaves to gather in great armloads to stuff down the backs of each other's jackets. Enough leaves to rake into "leaf forts" where one could hide and share secrets with a best friend. Enough leaves to pile into mountains to jump into, scattering them around to gather up and do it all again.
I have fond memories of those leaf piles. I remember being allowed to put on my corduroy pants under my required skirt (no, this was not a parochial school) to play at recess. I remember zipping up my new-for-school fall jacket, and hoping the neckline was tight enough to repel leaves. I remember piling up leaves in a sheltered space at the far edge of the lawn & lying behind it with my best friend, who was the only other girl in my class. I remember getting my first kiss in one of those leaf piles, too.
When my friend mentioned crunchy leaves, I thought of the slippery leaves rapidly decaying in the street where I'd parked the night before - visiting my daughter in a big city. She lives on a street with lots of trees, which shed lots of leaves, which get raked into the gutter where they rot and become mud and eventually wash away into the sewers. And so, the thought of crunchy leaves made me a little sad - I was missing the scents and sounds of fall in this rainy week.
But yesterday afternoon and again this morning I noticed something about leaves in the rain. They look washed - the color on the maples is striking, a soft yellow tinged with green and orange. Impressionist painters strove for just this effect: edges blurring, colors melting into one another, puddles of liquid gold on green carpets. One maple, caught half-undressed, looks like a bright yellow flag with leaves clinging to just one side. The burning bush in my neighbor's yard is aflame with a deep, vivid red. The sedum in the front garden adds an intense shade of purple. Like a fireworks display, nature is offering a grand finale before the truly gray days of winter that begin and end in darkness.