Needing one, I invented her –
the great-great-aunt, dark as hickory
called Shining-Leaf, or Drifting-Cloud
Dear aunt, I’d call into the leaves,
and she’d rise up, like an old log in a pool,
and whisper in a language only the two of us knew
the word that meant follow,
and we’d travel
cheerful as birds
out of the dusty town and into the trees
where she would change us both into something quicker –
two foxes with black feet,
two snakes green as ribbons,
two shimmering fish – – and all day we’d travel.
At day’s end she’d leave me back at my own door
with the rest of my family,
who were kind, but solid as wood
and rarely wandered. While she,
old twist of feathers and birch bark,
would walk in circles wide as rain and then
scattering the rags of twilight
on fluttering moth wings;
or she’d slouch from the barn like a gray opossum;
or she’d hang in the milky moonlight
burning like a medallion,
this bone dream, this friend I had to have,
this old woman made out of leaves.
Oh, how I miss my crazy/wonderful/beautiful aunts! They were drunks, one and all, but their lives were too hard for words, so I forgave them because, even as a child, I understood pain and hardship. I love this glorious Aunt Leaf who I only just discovered on this amazing Fall day in Swamplandia and I'm adopting her, just as Mary Oliver did.
We had a cooler day yesterday...cooler and breezy---a wonder after our long summer of heat and humidity. My house cat, Catfish, ran out of the open patio door in a rare visit outdoors...and just as he stepped into the yard, a magnificent wind came from wherever wind comes from and shook some leaves from the huge Water Oak tree. He did the fastest about-face I've ever seen a 25 pound cat do, and ran back into the house with his nub of a tail tucked down. I realized he didn't know what falling leaves were. :-) It was hilarious, bless his kitty heart.
"Magnificent Autumn! He comes not like a pilgrim, clad in russet weeds. He comes not like a hermit, clad in gray. But he comes like a warrior, with the stain of blood upon his brazen mail. His crimson scarf is rent.... The wind.... wafts to us the odor of forest leaves, that hang wilted on the dripping branches, or drop into the stream. Their gorgeous tints are gone, as if the autumnal rains had washed them out. Orange, yellow, and scarlet, all are changed to one melancholy russet hue.... There is a melancholy and continual roar in the tops of the tall pines.... It is the funeral anthem of the dying year." ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow