Wednesday, October 28, 2009



Walking home this morning after a meeting, I came across this splendid specimen stuck to the sidewalk. There were plenty of leaves to choose from, heaped up in their damp, golden anonymity, but this one caught my eye. I liked its air of indecision. Not quite red, not quite yellow, clinging to its last-ditch quotient of green. Mostly dead, but incrementally alive. Or perhaps not, I'm probably projecting there. It's hard to avoid the temptation with leaves, they're metaphorical magnets. And by coincidence, I just came across an excellent example of leafy metaphor-making on Patrick Kurp's Anecdotal Evidence. He's quoting from a poem I've never read, R.S. Thomas's "Autumn," which is actually an argument against the sort of anthropomorphic mischief I've just been engaging in:
Happy the leaves
burnishing their own
downfall. Life dances
upon life's grave.
It is we who inject
sadness into the migrant’s
cry. We are so long
in dying -- time granted
to discover a purpose
in our decay?

From Thoreau's "Autumnal Tints" lecture, the "Fallen Leaves" section:

"It is pleasant to walk over the beds of these fresh, crisp, and rustling leaves. How beautifully they go to their graves! how gently they lay themselves down and turn to mould!... So they troop to their last resting-place, light and frisky."

And there's a lot more in the same leafy vein. You're not alone!
A tardy thank you for the beautiful snippet of Thoreau. In my tireless effort to be a modern American, I now have "Walden" loaded onto my cell phone. Also "Leaves of Grass" and something by Wodehouse.
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