Raking the leaves

Don't do it, leaf! You have so much to live for!
Don’t do it, leaf! You have so much to live for!

Fall fell quickly this year.

In much of Colorado, the trees were not long “in their autumn beauty.” We hiked through the same stretch of Pike National Forest between the mammalian peaks Marmot and Buffalo just a week apart; the trees wore a vibrant veil on our first visit and were bare by our second.

On Saturday, we filled two wrecking ball-size trash bags with leaves from a single tree in our front yard. By Sunday, we could have filled two more.

A rainbow of decay.
Dead leaves and the dirty ground.

Though Yeats’s “harmony of leaves” concluded abruptly, the leaves themselves performed a ground-level encore, carpeting the earth in a remnant patchwork of yellow, orange and red, and dancing in the breeze. Autumn tends to stir the poetic side of one’s soul, but I heed John Keats, who in a letter to his publisher advises, “If poetry comes not as naturally as the Leaves to a tree it had better not come at all.”

“Where are the songs of Spring?” Keats asks in To Autumn, one of the great odes to the season. “Ay, where are they? Think not of them, thou hast thy music too…”

Hey, Machaeranthera. Summer's last song.
Hey, Machaeranthera. Summer’s last song.

Chief among the rewards of maintaining this humble blog is the chance to interact with people who are more well-read than I and happen to have great taste. My reading list has swelled to multiple notepads, and my brain contains passages of books and poems I otherwise would have missed, like Humbert Wolfe’s Autumn (Resignation), which crisply captures the seasonal transition:

'the air is wild with leaves...'
“…the air is wild with leaves…”

Listen! the wind is rising,

and the air is wild with leaves,

We have had our summer evenings,

now for October eves!

Not everyone embraces autumn with such exultation. Take Edgar Allan Poe’s late lament Ulalume, which, despite a childhood obsession with Poe, had gone unread by me:

The skies they were ashen and sober;

Reese and Wyatt don't find October so lonesome.
Reese and Wyatt don’t find October so lonesome, but they do believe “sere” is an underused adjective.

The leaves they were crispéd and sere—

The leaves they were withering and sere:

It was night in the lonesome October

Of my most immemorial year…

Then there’s Shelley, who in Ode to the West Wind gives us romance with a chaser of macabre:

reese_fall 15_field
Reese and the ”wild West Wind.”

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,

Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead

Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,

Pestilence-stricken multitudes…

Though politics embitters the quiet beauty of the season, it is appropriate that elections fall in autumn. Alexander Pope:

Wyatt and Reese: Consummate politicians, but we love them anyway.
Wyatt and Reese: Consummate politicians, but we love them anyway.

Words are like leaves; and where they most abound,

Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found.

If only we could all see what Yeats saw in autumn and its byproduct: “Though leaves are many, the root is one…”

Wyatt races toward winter.
Wyatt races toward winter.

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