This is the moon of wayward intermingling. An errant autumn wind blows a regiment of brittle leaves toward me, past me, through me. Each tree is releasing its billions of spent sentinels, this oak, that elm, this maple, that cottonwood, sending away once-securely-held flags to dance on the chaos of the wind.
Orion rises tonight. The hunter returns to his prairie.
Mixed with the brown rustle of the leaves and occasional goose music from high above is the changing voice of the trees. No longer aflutter, agiggle with leaves, now more wind sieves, branches straining out the harmonics to leave skeletons of dark notes hung on stark staffs.
Gone are the chlorophyll days, the thrill of songbirds, the ache of heat and harvest. Now only the spin and sputter of the leaves, crunchy as cereal, a rheologist’s reverie. When trees decide to forfeit their prize leaves, there is no consensus. Each tree decides which breeze will receive its reward. Perhaps it waits for that moment of pure stillness, utter windlessness, and, through sheer force of will, releases a single yellow acrobat that carelessly, delicately, unashamedly glides and chutes to the earth. Each leaf that lands sends a small signal to the sipping roots of the tree beneath.
Some trees prolong the gilded state until their full-sun radiance receives gratitude sufficient to warrant the golden release. In the tickle of two or three small breezes, the tree abandons its saffron robe to stand naked, posing against the blue-grey sky. Lungless now, breathless too, it awaits winter, the snow.
A small miracle: a squirrel, impossibly, finds an unshelled peanut among the welter of leaves. Frozen in suspicious surprise for a moment, the squirrel accepts the miracle, integrates the peanut into its intent and carries off its living treasure to be re-hidden, forgotten until, in the dozy squirm of a warm winter day, the squirrel remembers the exact location of the nut, dreams it onto a map that will unfurl once spring takes off the snow. Hunger will tweak this unfurling. The shell will split, nourishment gained, the dreaming proceeds.
A bouquet of swirling yellow erupts on a gravel road, tracing something indecipherable on the ground then gone. A settling of leaves, a stilled rustle. Clouds of leaves, brittle as butterflies, none the colour of blueberries, sail across the horizon. Stiff winds chase each leaf from the tree and pursue it at an unpredictable pace over unknown ground landing a mile away or further.
Though sharp, serrated, dry and propelled by anxious autumn winds, leaves don’t shear off our heads or lacerate bare skin. Buds and twigs, even playful bits of bark borne on an earnest breeze won’t damage our flesh. Large branches fracture bone; entire falling trees crush us to death regularly. Usually, though, trees do not kill us. They breathe with us, for us. If they die, we die.