Is there anything more cliché about fall than leaves? Pumpkins, maybe. But the image that comes to my mind more often than any other when I think about fall is that of leaves. Some leaves change color so dramatically. There is a large, old maple tree a few blocks away from my house that is magnificent right now, ablaze with orange and red and still some hints of green. It’s remarkable to see, but rather unremarkable to write about. There is a pretty tree in my neighborhood‼ Isn’t that fascinating??!
The large maple tree in my backyard is gone. At the end of the summer, a crew came with a bucket truck and chainsaws, and in the space of six hours, sliced off each sprawling limb, dismembered the trunk, and took it away in pieces. The tree is gone, and to be honest I don’t even miss it as much as I thought I would. Especially now. That maple tree did not turn pretty colors at all. The leaves were dotted with some sort of fungus, though the tree itself was surprisingly healthy, and they turned a nondescript brown in the middle of November every year, before defoliating en masse onto the roof and into the gutters of our house and into the backyard, where we would rake them into piles and fill the compost and mulch the garden and mow them into the lawn and still have so much leftover we didn’t know where to put them all. Now that tree is gone and we don’t have to deal with the leaves anymore. And we can see the stars at night.
I think about the leaves I like to eat. I grow arugula in my garden. It’s so spicy and bitter, I sometimes wonder why I like to grow so much of it, and I think it’s mostly because the sharp flavor keeps the bunnies, who would happily munch away at lettuce and parsley and carrot greens, at bay. I grow chard, always from a package of rainbow seeds so the stems are vibrant red, yellow, purple. By now the leaves are large as flags and pock-marked with holes where something is eating them, but I pick a few anyway and slip them into dishes for dinner and hope the kids won’t notice. Or if they do notice, they won’t care.
Last week I went outside with Anya’s kindergarten class to pick flowers from the school garden. We also took a walk through the woods on the school grounds, and as we were coming out, the children started picking up oak leaves from the ground. The oak leaves are big, brown, intricately shaped. Fascinated by the intricate shape, the curves and points, and by the crinkly texture, the kids wanted to keep them and make bouquets.