It seemed to take forever this year but the leaves finally began to turn. I noticed it starting when I drove up to Maryland. In a mere two weeks, however, the brilliant color is waning, red orange and gold turning to faded yellow and brown. Last Saturday the gentleman who lives on the outside corner of the cul-de-sac across from the thrift store had gathered an enormous pile of leaves after a day raking up his yard. I will have to follow suit this week. Even though Tony did tree trimming earlier in the summer, the big maple still sheds lots of leaves. Nothing is wasted, however,. The leaves will be added to the compost pile and they break down beautifully.
The autumn leaves of November are truly the end of things, as the leaves of October celebrate the height of abundant harvest. This year especially, as the Halloween storm dramatically marked a change in the weather and the time change two days later heralded the coming darkness, the dead leaves are melancholy. Even at this point I feel the coming of a long, dark, cold winter. Summer was far too hot and humid to be a fond memory but I regret the passing of the long days, the drone of the bees and the flowers they feed from and the pleasures of the farmer’s market.
The activities now are more like military maneuvers. Banging on the storm windows and inundating them with WD-40 to get them to come down is a veritable war. Putting up the heavy winter drapes is like hanging blackout curtains. Going through the checklists like a logistics officer; checking the supply of batteries, and the condition of the camp cooker, noting the broken window scraper in the truck needs to be replaced, pulling the snow shovel from the storage unit all being ticked off. Doing all the things necessary to keep the house warm and cheery, knowing the cold and dark are coming, ends with the rake being packed up for the winter as the trees stand bare and the last autumn leaves in the compost. It is rather sad in a way. Another year is coming to an end, not just a summer or a colorful fall, and a year in which there was loss.
Maybe that is why autumn leaves have become symbolic of loss. The song is famous. It was written by Joseph Kosma with original lyrics by Jacques Prévert in French. Kosma was a native of Hungary who was introduced to Prévert in Paris. They collaborated on the song ”Les Feuilles mortes” (“The Dead Leaves”) for the 1946 film Les Portes de la nuit (Gates of the Night). Later new English lyrics were written by Johnny Mercer. in English. An instrumental version by pianist Roger Williams was a #1 best-seller in the USA Billboard charts of 1955. As a jazz standard, “Autumn Leaves” has accumulated more than a thousand commercial recordings, one reason people recognize the opening bars without knowing the song.
My favorite is still the original French version by Yves Montand , one of the first to record it commercially.
Oh, je voudais tant que tu te souviennes Des jours heureux où nous étions amis En ce temps-là la vie était plus belle
Et le soleil plus brûlant qu’aujourd’hui Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle
Tu vois, je n’ai pas oublié
Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle
Les souvenirs et les regrets aussi Et le vent du Nord les emporte
Dans la nuit froide de l’oubli
Tu vois, je n’ai pas oublié
La chanson que tu me chantais C’est une chanson qui nous ressemble
Toi tu m’aimais, et je t’aimais
Nous vivions tous les deux ensemble
Toi qui m’aimais, moi qui t’aimais Mais la vie sépare ceux qui s’aiment
Tout doucement, sans faire de bruit