BOS 10 14 2020 doublesize
A yellow leaf floated on the wind, moved slowly across the yard, drifted back and forth, up and down. I suppose it eventually found its way to the ground, but I did not see it fall. All I saw was the dance.

That leaf had been tugged from its branch by the wind, lifted across the land. Well beneath the canopy, though a storey above the ground, it would have gotten caught among the trees that line the yard. Perhaps it rested for a time with others like it on the branches of the blue spruce. That thickly structured tree catches what drifts by on the air as well as sheltering what skitters across the ground. The leaves that rest on it will move on in time.

Raking the lawn created a little dance along the ground. I was moving the leaves toward the garden, but into the wind. The rake lifted them from the tangle where they rested, pushed them across the grass. The wind then picked them up and pushed them back toward me. I changed direction, raking that day's fall onto the bare earth around an ash tree. Come spring these will get dug into the heavy clay around that tree, amending the structure of the soil, adding fertility to the earth, capturing carbon. Another day I will manage to move others into the garden on the south side of the yard.

There will be more days of raking. Only a couple trees right at the edge of the water are bare. Leaves from these trees were floating on the quiet surface, an orange patch that moved in and out, slowly spreading along the shore. Wilder waves have pulled them down, moved them out, thrown some back onto the rocks.

Most of the leaves on the ash in the centre of our yard still cling to the branches. With Sunday's gusts, they skittered in place, a wild trembling dance. I expected more to release their hold, but still they wave in whatever wind comes.

There is a lot of green in the forest here, a dark backdrop to the flaming colours of the leaves that have changed. Some maples are a deep scarlet. Some a fire-bright orange tipped with red. Ash and birch are yellow. A glorious display of colour, a last celebration before the grey of November and white of winter.

The leaves seem to me to be falling more slowly than some years, despite days of strong winds. Those that fell a week ago and more carpet the paths, move as our feet pass, provide a delicate music to accompany a stroll among the trees aflame with colour and those still clinging to summer green.

Most of the plants have completed their cycles. Lilies and hostas are turning yellow and dropping. Yellow has climbed half way up the bamboo, though the green tops wave in the wind off the water. Along the paths, purple asters bloom still, the occasional bumble bee testing each flower. My snow peas receive the same visitors. We have not yet had frost down here by the shore.

A visiting bird found the asters in the dim light of dawn. This bird turned leaves, poked at the grass, hopped on. At the asters, it pecked the flowers, tilting its head, nudging the blossoms. Eventually, it plunged into the shelter they offer, out of my sight before I could identify the visitor.

That morning, I realized how many birds were gone. No robins. No grackles. No phoebe. The hummingbirds were long gone. I'll fill the bird feeders soon though, and the permanent residents will drop by, bird and squirrel and chipmunk. The yard will be a flurry of activity, with red squirrel chasing black, chickadees flitting in and away, blue jays taking over the space the grackles departed. Soon the ash tree where the feeders hang will release its leaves to the wind, but the shelter of spruce and cedar will remain for those who winter here.

Cathy Hird lives on the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway


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