Sunday, October 16, 2011

Looking for Leaves

We are now halfway through a fourth consecutive month of rain. Last month, there was more rainfall in the first three days of September than the usual average for the entire month. People who have lived here for thirty or forty years say that they cannot ever recall another summer as rainy as this one. "Consequence of global warming," mutters my friend Robert.

Today around mid-afternoon, the clouds lifted a little and it brightened up. No actual sunshine, mind you -- just high cloud cover and diffuse light. Time for a walk, or, "the W-thing," as I said in front of the dogs in a vain attempt reduce their pre-walk frenzy.

So off we went, the dogs and I. For the first block, Kate ran in tight circles barking repeatedly in a high-pitched piercing manner, and Sophie chased her trying to bite her. The usual, in other words.

Once the dogs settled down, I had time to notice the brilliant fall leaves: yellow of the poplar trees, ranging from cadmium yellow light to cadmium medium, and maple leaves in red, scarlet, and yellow. The big yellow maple leaves reminded me of my annual childhood fall endeavour. I used to go out and collect autumn leaves, the most colourful, unblemished ones that I could find, then bring them home and iron them between sheets of wax paper. Do children still do this?

Perhaps I thought I could keep the leaves forever, preserved this way. Somehow I could stop time and freeze their beauty.

Of course those tattered little squares of wax paper are long gone. Now I am walking down the hill on the other side of middle age.

But when I look at the profusion of autumn's colours, my eyes sharpen as I enthusiastically scan the bushes to either side of the rutted track, looking for the loveliest, least blemished leaves. Turns out, it wasn't the collecting or preserving of the leaves that was most important; it was the looking.

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