Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Leaf Treader

I have been treading on leaves all day until I am autumn-tired
God knows all the color and form of leaves I have trodden on and mired.
Perhaps I have put forth too much strength or been too fierce from fear.
I have safely trodden underfoot the leaves of another year.

All summer long they were over head, more lifted up than I.
To come to their final place in earth they had to pass me by.
All summer long I thought I heard them whispering under their breath.
And when they came it seemed with a will to carry me with them to death.

They spoke to the fugitive in my heart as if it were leaf to leaf.
They tapped at my eyelids and touched my lips with an invitation to grief.
But it was no reason I had to go because they had to go.
Now up to my knee to keep on top another year of snow.

~ Robert Frost
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The weatherman predicts our first "sticking" snow will begin in the night. It may have already begun, I haven't gone to the big set of patio doors in the dining room and looked out across the lawn and parking area, where falling snow would be visible in the glow of the street lights.

Having grown up in the southern US, where snow was a distinct oddity, and "winter" was six weeks of sweater weather, Calgary's snow and interminable winters filled me with dismay the first several years I lived here. I've grown more sanguine about it over the past 40+ years. Calgary wears a mantle of snow comfortably, as easily as a shawl tossed around the shoulders as you nip outside for the morning paper.

But there's something else. The years are so much more compact than they once were. When you are six it's 100 years between Christmases, by the time you're drawing a pension the seasons fly past so quickly it's easy to blink and miss one entirely. You look at the leaves swirling and gathering in drifts and you understand what they have been saying all summer. It's not a threat, but a promise, "You're one of us. Watch and learn."

I wonder how old Robert Frost was when he wrote A Leaf Treader? It's the work of a man who was old enough to recognize that our existence is as the cycling of leaves. We can resist all we like, but no amount of force or fierceness of fear will keep us from the same cycle of nature that the leaves endure season after season. They fall and, if left undisturbed, sink deep and deeper becoming fodder for new generations of leaves, or for grass or mushrooms. Not such a bad thing, once you get over the fear.

The snow has started. I have safely trodden underfoot the leaves of this year. It will be a long time until spring, but not as long as it once was.

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