Today as I raked leaves in the front yard, my neighbor and his little girl came out of their house, the girl holding a giant bag nearly as big as she was.
“I want red ones and yellow ones and orange ones…” she said.
I knew exactly what they were doing.
Fall has always been my favorite time of year. I grew up in the middle of rolling wheat fields with very few trees. In town, we had lots of evergreens. One park, called Reaney Park, had a lot of large deciduous trees, and I remember being drawn to that park in autumn to watch the leaves tumble from their branches, breathe in their musty scent and hear the rattle as they chased one another across the dry grass. The sky looked crisp and blue and the air hinted that winter might come, but it stayed hot enough to warm my skin.
My friends and I would pile as many leaves as we could and throw them in the air, or kick our feet through the piles to hear the shush-shush sounds they made. We would collect the ones we thought had the prettiest colors and bring them home to show our parents.
When I left home for college in Ohio, I reveled in the fall colors; yellows, oranges, greens, reds and browns. I looked for any opportunity to kick my feet through piles of leaves. On afternoon rambles, I would look through the piles and select the ones I thought had the most beautiful colors. Sometimes a leaf would keep the green chlorophyll near its veins, while the rest of it turned yellow. Sometimes a leaf would contain yellow, green and orange. Sometimes the green was rimmed with red. And yet other times the pure, bright red of a leaf would strike me, and I would add it to my leaf bouquet.￼
I’ve lived in many different places as an adult. During my six years in Florida, I loved the warmth but missed the autumn leaves. Moving to Northern California has brought them back into my life. I’ve been taking photos of the beautiful colors for weeks. Leaves changing in my back yard, on the trails, on campus. I’m delighted to be back in territory where nature sheds one color to reveal others. It’s a beautiful canvas and reminds me that loss has its own beauty.
After I overheard my neighbors on their leaf-hunting expedition, I began one of my own. I’ll be adding to my bouquet over the next few weeks as our leaves continue to fall.