Fall is beautiful enough without being rained on.
As I walk home from work, my head is down against the wind and my thoughts are plugged in to the Prairie Home Companion podcast. But look, the rain is a steady drizzle, fogging the lights flashing back and forth on the road to my left. I can distinguish individual raindrops in each passing headlight, and the reflections splatter across the vision – sparks from a welder’s flame.
The fallen leaves are pasted as in a scrapbook, some curling at the edges as if the glue was not spread with enough care. Others simply cling to the pavement for dear life – a panoply of oviod, hexagonal, and arciform stencils with stems stubbornly sticking upright. The leaves that have held on longer sway precariously, perching on wrinkled branches, moments from the plunge. It must be a hell of a life for a leaf – you bud, blossom, fade, and fall the one year you exist; and from there it’s a hop, skip, and a jump to fertilizer or fire-fodder. The only consolation is going out in a blaze of glory.
The rain collecting on my hat swings around the brim and hesitates at the edge before leaping to the ground. Some daredevil drops hang bare-knuckled, waiting for the jolts from my movement to leap into the abyss, but they all eventually join their comrades in the rush to the lower ground. The carpets of leaves become streams, nudged by the water into long wavy lines. Playful jostling is all part of the final act.
Why is decay so beautiful?
There are slim green-veined hands, yellow-rimmed with orange fingers and bright red nails. There are brown-stained fat hands with tattered edges. There are perfectly tiny bejeweled fingers, mirroring the larger. There are gangly mustard hands, graceful copper hands, flaming cubist hands, pointed black claws – all drenched and dripping and rearing up from the grassy cemeteries on right and left, grasping and gripping for what?
I scatter rain from my coat as I enter 5585 Clarendon Hills Road. I scrape the persistent mud from my shoes; the fragments of leaves smear on the mat, shredded flesh mixed with mud. I drop my keys on the faded and stained carpet, and reach for them as I silence Garrison’s sultry voice. There is the smell of garlic from Apt. 104, where undoubtedly my wife has cooked up something wondrous in the kitchen and my daughter has cooked up something wondrous in her diaper.
I enter to crying baby, smiling wife, spicy pumpkin candle and warm incandescence. Those blue eyes and a new haircut from the neighbor upstairs; chubby limbs and tiny toes – and yes, it looks like Nadia’s got something special for me. My girls are here, my home is here, my life is here – and such life. Linnea’s made a butternut squash shepherd’s pie which is autumn on the tongue, and there’s Trader Joe’s pumpkin ice cream for afters. And the sentiment is rooted in the joy of changing seasons, the agony of withering life, the hope of rebirth two seasons hence, and what it all means to my spirit; and it all occurs within a penumbra of brilliant colors.
What delight there is in death.