Maine has fall leaves – again – proof we are 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 for their ability to draw “peeping” tourists. One of my favorite leaf tunes has Nat King Cole singing about them, “drifting by his window.” Maine is fueled by genuine solar energy.

On rainy fall days, the leaves from a distance look like wet socks hung by a giant as they’ve come out of his washer unsorted. Other times they look like sentinels standing aloof from all tedious 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 logic eludes me when thinking about leaves. Leaves in extravagant fall color seem to me a chaotic riot. They get noisy, then turn timid; and when they lose their spunk, they lose their very selves. Of course 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, and 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 the fall. There’s something about the fall that stimulates all of our senses at once, and pushes us toward memories. We mix scents and sights in the fall which make it fundamentally poetic. Leaves fall, and bonfires are lit. Apples ripen and cider’s pressed. As we long for time to stop, we naturally remember times gone by. We know in our hearts the winds will bring loss.

Maybe we feel the loss because the colors and senses all lean toward tones of fire. The sound of leaf-rakes at work are like snare brushes on a drum set, and the reds, oranges, smoke, and bonfires all conspire 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 the straw men made of corn often point toward mazes, labyrinths, in fields where the thrill of being lost and found is fundamental.

No exaggeration, how sensual the fall becomes at its best. When plants wave flags of surrender, the very scent of the air has a bite that isn’t purely caused by the evening cool. Kicking mounds of leaves in the street is like hitting the cymbal on that 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, missed all of this, and feel like I see it fresh. But it is like recognizing an old friend.


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