He didn’t think he’d ever really noticed the leaves in fall. A bright yellow maple leaf drifted onto the porch and settled near his foot. Slightly upturned, the burnt golden edges seemed fueled by the dark red veins flowing from its stem.
It brought back memories of Sarah in what she deemed “her harvest best” – a multi-hue cotton shift she wore in autumn hanging up laundry and dancing barefoot among the fallen foliage. The sunset turned her hair rich shades of gold and orange as she spun and laughed and beckoned him to join her.
A gust of wind lifted the maple leaf and it was gone. Just as Sarah was gone with the fall breezes.
A bouquet of elm leaves blew around his feet and the rails of the rocking chair. He noticed the rainbow of colors: some green with yellow, some pure orange, some scarlet. It triggered thoughts of Ginny, his daughter, sitting cross-legged on the worn boards coloring with crayons labeled persimmon, tangerine, canary, and such. Of her playful way of talking to herself as her imagination transcended the simple patterns in the coloring book. Then, with no warning, she would leap to her feet and scamper off leaving the mess behind to find some new adventure. As sure as the wind swirled to sweep away the elm leaves, Ginny too was gone.
He had long since stopped rocking, leaning back as the full glory of nature filled his gaze. So many variations in the splendor of the trees. A kaleidoscope ever-changing as the limbs were blown in crazy non-synchronous waves, dipping and swaying, dumping their cargo of leaves like snowflakes in a blizzard. There was the gentle swoosh of branches against branches and the solitary tinkle of what remained of a fractured wind chime.
He closed his eyes.
The aroma from fresh baked pumpkin pie wafting through worn curtains in the open window entered his memory. The soothing feel of ice cold hard apple cider flowing down his throat; the taste of honey-baked ham with a touch of mustard; the drip of butter escaping down his chin as he bit into a home-made biscuit still hot from the oven. All the flavors of fall now many years past.
He began rocking again. As if some strain of music had flooded over him reminding him of slow dancing with Sarah, of singing with his friends in the quartet. The melodies of the county fairs, barn dances, and radio stations at night filled him.
The wet, rough tongue of his dog, Star, on his hand stirred him out of his nostalgia. If a man had nothing else but a loving, loyal mutt, he thought, he was blessed indeed.
“Yes, I know,” he said stroking the shaggy white mane, “You’re ready for your dinner.”
He rose slowly from the old oak rocker and, with the dog close at his calves, entered the house letting the wobbly screen door slam behind him.
The wind gusted swirling, tossing leaves against the screen before shifting direction anew. A single majestic oak leaf gently landed on the rocker.