Fall

16 Oct

I watch the park change.

People—fathers on their lunch break from work and skater punks skipping school and lovers holding hands and old people holding each-other but mostly mothers with their young children—fill the park. They spread blankets on the ground by the water and eat sandwiches. Children toddle along the rocks by the water and point at the ducks: “!” All big eyes, in awe of the bobbing birds. Mom comes and hands her child a piece of bread; he throws it into the water; the bird swims near; and boy shrieks in delight. Mom smiles. The dad on lunch break sits on a bench, and he just sits, nothing more, for the only peaceful moment in his day is now.

 The elderly people hobble together along the path, helping one-another, leaning inward for strength. But what great fun! To get out of the house together and see such a waterfall, and the trees! “Did you ever see such pretty trees?” It is an event, and they will talk about it for days. The lovers shyly hold hands, self-consciously. They walk slow because they’re listening so carefully to what the other says. “Yes, yes, of course, I think so, too.” Their heads bob like the ducks. One wonders if they realize even where they are, that they wandered into a park.

This is summer, when leaves fill the trees and water the river and ducks the pond and people the park. It is color, mostly green but if you look close —purple, blue, violet—enough to let the eyes drink for days, years, months, an entire life time. They say, you know, that people get sick when they never go outside, that we absolutely must have green. I agree. It’s sad to think some sip forever on the straw of artificiality.

There are many artists here, too. Mainly photographers. The daring ones hop over the guardrail and perch on a rock close to where the water rushes vertical, and I think they’re very stupid—plucky, but stupid. “Click, click, click.” If some plunge by accident, dozens more meander through safely on the pathways, clicking with their big, black, expensive cameras. There will be no shortage of photographs: The willow tree. Mother with child. Ducks. Each frame captures something, later reserved for printing, deleting or posting: “Great place for pictures. Glad I thought to come here. Oh, I guess 10 other people did, too.” He looks sad for a moment but then brightly begins clicking again. It’ll be his picture that’s most beautiful. He’s sure of it. He’s an artist; they’re all hacks.

Summer is looking out over the park, over the streams, ponds and pathways and seeing people, tiny figures until you pass them and realize their fullness, their color, too. But then comes fall and with it, less green, less people. The sun no longer shines on everything. It comes in dribbles, dappling through the leaves, splotching the ground with patches of light. It falls on a cluster of rocks rimming the pond, and you sit on them to feel it on your back and in your hair. It is no longer given freely; now it must be savored as a candy you roll around in your mouth until it’s so small it slips into nothingness. This is fall sunshine, and it is lovelier than thought when you come to it after passing through shadows.

Wind blusters through the park, shaking yellow, orange, red leaves from the branches and carrying them, flipping and twirling through the air so that when they catch in the sunlight, they glitter. Wind—and rain—fill the air. Leaves carpet the ground, and they’re glossy with dew. It is cold now, and one cannot sit quite so freely as during the summer, when you sat with your picnic, everything spread around like a flower. Now you begin pulling inward. You wrap your sweater tighter and zip your jacket. You cross your legs and arms. Winter is coming. But not yet.

On this day, a cold, blustery fall day when leaves shake and fall from the trees every few breaths, I walk along a pathway, coming to where it widens enough so that I can see the whole park. And it’s empty. Excepting the leaves swirling through and a few left-over ducks, it looks lonely—and smaller than when it’s full with people, like I could cup my hands around it or paint it in one picture. I walk past the empty benches and feel the decidedly colder spray of water from the waterfall. Everyone has gone home, now. Or are happier to be inside. I meander around the empty park like one of the photographers during summer. My hands are stuffed deep into my pockets. I cannot help but feel that people miss out on this. Scared away by wind and rain, they miss the brilliant orange and red—and the yellow! And I realize that I am fall, and this is why it’s always been my favorite.

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