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November 17, 2009
The golden leaves fall, a few with each new breeze: it seems that they glitter as they fall, for their undersides are lighter than their top surfaces, giving the illusion of light from within.

Other leaves skitter along the playground as the wind blows them, causing my little grandson to wonder, I think, if they might not be alive, perhaps a new kind of bird he has only now encountered. This is not an unreasonable idea: every day a new wonder presents itself to him. Why should not there be a group of yellow birds who hurry along on the concrete just ahead of him, always out of reach? No reason at all.

The shredder whirrs to life, and Q pours a generous slide of leaves into its wide mouth. Out of the bottom comes a fall of leaf meal, ready for the garden, half- finished the initial stage of its decomposition already. Rot is the glorious goal in the compost game, and smaller pieces rot more speedily than whole leaves, which can harden annoyingly into a layer of something like papier mâché and take forever to become one with the earth.

The cats Benito and Santana are concerned on two counts. First, the shredder itself: it roars as it gobbles up the leaves, spewing twigs and pieces of acorn alarmingly into the air. And then there are the sudden golden showers of the leaves: there was a shortage of deciduous trees in their Italian home, and they are not used to twirly things falling from the sky. Are we supposed to chase this stuff? Is this the snow we used to watch from our window on 48th Street? Somehow we seem to remember it as white -- these things are all yellow and red.

What's-Her-Name can barely conceal her contempt. She had no use for the boys when they arrived from New York, and their year in Florence has not improved them any, not that she can see. She is as thin and wary as they are plump and naive. She will not enter the house if she thinks they are anywhere around. She walks indifferently through the golden shower of leaves toward the hedge and disappears under the porch next door.

I sit in my chair and look at the yellow leaves that remain on the tree outside my window. They are bright against the tree's black bark, heartbreakingly so. Can it really be that they are soon to fall and curl into something so other than their current vegetable loveliness, something so dry? Best look long at them now, best kick up a golden wave of them off the sidewalk now, while they are still here.


Sonnet 73

That time of year thou may'st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by-and-by black night doth take away
Death's second self, which seals up all in rest.

In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie
As the death-bed wherein it must expire
Consumed with that which it was nourish'd by:

---this thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

-- William Shakespeare 1604(?)
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