Cloud of Black Leaves


I stood at the base of twin sycamores, watching the autumn breeze pluck the stiff leaves from their white, peeling limbs. They were tired & seemed grateful for the gentle movement. The wind, a friend, taking their coat & hat, ushering them through the door & inviting them to rest a while.

Suddenly I felt the wind reverse. My scarf & hair were sucked behind me to the west, like they were being pulled by an inhale from some terrible beast yawning in the woods beyond the trail. My heart rate quickened slightly in anticipation, knowing that with any inhale came an exhale.

And so it came, air rushing back in with an awesome force, different than before, whipping ready leaves from their branches & sending them twirling off in a spirited death dance. Russet, saffron,  titian, chartreuse—they pirouetted all around me, some brushing against me on their way to a final curtsy upon the wet earth.

With the next inhale from the woods, I looked up to every leaf on every tree quivering. But prematurely to the exhale, a sudden cloud of black leaves came pouring over the tree line. Before I had time to process what curious phenomenon I was witnessing, my finger pressed instinctively on the shutter button of my camera already in hand. I could not sacrifice even a moment to see where the camera was actually pointing. If I did, I would have surely missed seeing the scene through my own eyes, for as suddenly as the cloud came, it disappeared out of sight.

After I was sure it had passed completely, I simply stood in the thrill of what occurred. How delighted I was by the mighty, exhaling wind, how enchanted by the many dancing leaves, how wonderfully amused by the black cloud’s appearance.

With a small smile on my lips, I swiped open my photos to study what I had seen. Dense & massive as it was, the cloud came & went so fast over the trees that even the quick eye of my camera only captured the trailing tapers of it. But a couple times zooming in on the image revealed not a cloud of black leaves but the elegant silhouettes of small birds. So many! And what a hurry they were in—understandably so! Winter was fast approaching, & for any creature of the natural world, there was much to be done, perhaps many miles to travel.

The chill of the evening was weaving into the woodland breaths, & I decided it was time to head back. I slipped my camera into my leather backpack, adjusted my scarf, & set off down the trail.

I had not taken five steps before my body tingled with a change in pressure. I gasped in recognition of the dark shadow coming over my head & turned to the sky. Another extraordinary flock of birds, perhaps greater in number than the first, flooded the sky above me. This time I caught glimpses of individual flyers madly pumping their wings to stay together.

Do little birds always look so frantic when they fly?

After they were gone, I was left with the same sense of amazement as I experienced before. The child in me stood on tiptoes in the direction both flocks had come, hoping to see some stragglers still making their way. But the darkening sky was clear, save for a few yellow leaves exalted by the wind.


Mes Trois Chats

I opened my bedroom door this morning & was immediately greeted by the excited meow-squeals of the littlest, Evelyn. She was much too happy to actually sit & let me pet her, so I simply extended my hand & let her rub her own head against it. She continued to wiggle around my legs & bestow sweet love bites to my ankles while I went about my morning routine in the kitchen.

The rain pattering against the skylights echoed in the high ceiling space. A rumble of thunder reminded me that my Toulouse was nowhere to be seen; even the mildest of storms sends him into hiding. Before I finished pouring my coffee over a thick bed of coconut oil & cream, I deduced the most probable place he would be. Sure enough, I found him there, hunkered down behind the toilet, the farthest location from any portal that could expose him to the elements.

Like the wonderful cat mum I am, I moved the small trash bin & knelt beside him. I stroked his worried forehead & gave him kitty-kisses with the slow blink of my eyelids. It was not until I heard a soft purr start in his throat that I gave him a final kiss & continued to get ready for work.

Berlioz had been watching me from the bathroom counter all that time. When I went over to him, he arched his back in a big stretch, leaning into my loving neck scratches. He sat there next to me through my whole grooming ritual. This is most likely because I offered to let him sniff various things—the toothpaste cap, a cotton swab damp with witch-hazel, my contact case—as I went along. He enjoyed that.

My phone suddenly lit up & told me that I was running 5 minutes behind schedule, but a last round of goodbyes felt worth the inevitable hurried sprint across the flooded parking lot & dash up three flights of stairs when I got to work.

First I kissed Berlioz atop his giant head. Then I bent down to Toulouse & whispered assuredly that the storm would soon pass. And then I exited the bathroom to a delighted squeal from Evee who was squirming for another nuzzle.

“Have a good day, ma petite.”

Purse, lunch, coffee, umbrella—into the rain.



Prevailing Light

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Gray clouds slid down the windshield of the sky like a river of ash, aiming to shut out the sunrise. But how that golden wave pushed back, glowing in its righteous defiance! Its colors flushed richly with the strain of its struggle, orange burning at its cheeks.

Its light was so pure & good that it drew in the help of the gallant east wind. Quite unfortunately, the wind’s charitable gusts proved almost too enthusiastic, & the moment it heard the bitter, shivering mumbles of cold humans tightening their jackets against it, the invisible Titan mercifully settled.

But without the wind the brave little sunrise trembled & began to falter. And so the gentle moon, still watching nearby, just on the other side of the veil, came to aid the cause. It did what it could to pull back the stormy tide, but, as for all creatures of the night, the day is primarily for sleeping, & its assistance quickly yawned into absence.

Noble efforts as they were, the darkness continued to fall, & the golden glow dwindled. With both quivering hands pressed against the descending shroud, the dying morning looked down upon the earth with an apologetic flicker.

I stood in the window, staring into the rapidly fading warmth of yellow light until the heavy clouds pinched out the last line of color on the horizon. But I did not despair; instead I smiled gently at the hazy orb still rising behind its dreary oppressor. A dim but prevailing light illuminated the day.



Rising Day

A subtle, rising glow of light breathes gently upon the foot of darkness; morning waits beneath the horizon, building slow anticipation for the wide & shivering faces already packing themselves into frosted vehicles to start the day.

The foaming orange wave swells & crashes against the receding purple veil, gradually washing away into the signature blue sky that blesses us in the daytime—but not before finishing its grand entrance, anything but routine, a new show every sunrise; it is the purpose & joy of the proud sun to perform for all creation, awing us with its brilliant displays of color & light & warmth, illuminating the stage & allowing the sky to be seen.

A thin break of red flashes just under the curtain, almost open, the final gesture of the prelude, which rolls into the next scene. The painted clouds freeze for a moment on the closing frame. The earth smiles—I capture a picture—& the colors slowly sink into the still blue.

Act Two.

What Strange & Resilient Things


Oh, all the strange & resilient things that don the old trees in the wet winter forest.

On the weathered faces of those sleeping giants, clever mushrooms appear like five o’clock shadow. Their roots, stretching out across the plush carpet of decay like callused & twisted toes, are graced with fuzzy green socks of thick moss, rich in color. And around every naked trunk, wrinkled & leathery like roughly aged necks, are fashioned snug scarves of ivy vines.

High up, the wizened branches may crack & creak, like ancient bones in cold discomfort, but down below, damp leaves, like blankets of freshly shed skin, silently compress into fresh fabrics for spring clothing.



Sacrificial Leaves




Often I forget
That leaves are alive,

And all those that fall
Are all ones that die.

I am dismayed by the sight
of the fleshy green

Slowly enveloped
In a dry, sickly sheen.

They fade in the shade
of the Good Father tree,

The mighty immortal
Who let die each leaf;

The mighty immortal
Who sacrifices to sleep.