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You're just walking down the street surrounded by green trees one day, and the next everything is shades of red and yellow. Walking around the neighborhoods of Seattle becomes a walk through spilled paints, and as the low sun hits the high branches, fire explodes above your head.
It's best near sunrise, I think, when the gray has parted for a morning, and there's a light, crisp breeze rustling the leaves. Maybe you're looking at your phone, worrying over a detail in your life that seems inescapable, and then that uncoordinated sound of leaves being pushed around, and you look up into the iridescence of fall.
And then, they're on the ground. You're walking over them, through them. They get weighted down and waterlogged after a day's rain. Those light and delightful leaves above, become slick and sodden, a sign of the cycle of life, on a tree's scale.
We like to talk about how humans follow cycles, how the seasons affect us. You could argue, even, that modernity is a way to escape the resonant call of nature. Keeping time, making light when we want it, shelter that we heat or cool to our comfort. But one look at a tree in fall will center you back in the natural world. Other parts of the world are affected by the turning of the world, and its travel around the sun. Not just us, but everywhere around us.
Not a bad reminder on a cool Fall morning, when you can just start seeing your breath, and the trees are as bright and beautiful as you've ever seen them.
If you jog around the top of Queen Anne ever day, you'll see the same faces. She used to rate them, on a scale of 0-10, how happy they looked doing what they were doing. Zero meant miserable. Ten meant ecstatic. A nod or smile or acknowledgment raised a score by at least two, but considering all of that, even, the aggregate score rarely raised above three. These people were depressed. And one thing you could do for depressed people was make them laugh. She got her idea for the first costume after jogging past a red and gold tree.
It was a dare. Baby boy mouse had to climb a tree, pick a single leaf, and hold on to it for at least two hours. If he did so, and the leaf stayed on the tree and didn't fall, his big brothers (all twelve of them) promised they would give him back his bottle cap. If he didn't, they were going to throw the bottle cap down the drain, to watch it race like a boat with the sewer current. There was nothing Baby boy Mouse liked more than that bottle cap. Not even his fear of heights could stop him. So, with his brothers egging him on, he started the climb up the trunk of the tree. A breeze rustled the leaves. His heart caught in his throat, as a rain of leaves fell down all around them.
The leaves made the street so slick, then even traveling slow, Charlene couldn't help but slide into the back of the black SUV when it slammed on its brakes. A tall man in a long coat emerged, aviator sunglasses on. He looked first at the back of the SUV for damage (there was none) before coming to her window. "Ma'am, are you okay?" he asked, and then leaning down, and getting a look at her, his mouth fell open. "Hey, wait a minute! Aren't you...?" Charlene nodded. The man, giving her an index finger indicating she should wait, jogged to the back door of the SUV. "Boss, you're never gonna believe who just hit us." The door slowly opened, and a leg emerged.
They had chased her down, two bigger boys. Pushed her until she fell, and then stuffed sopping, cold wet leaves down her shirt, while she cried and begged them to stop. Only a dad walking down the street with a little toddler scared them off. He stopped and bent down, "are you okay?" he asked. She couldn't stop crying, and now she was shivering and miserable. "Can I help you, please?" she nodded. He pulled leaves out, and she helped him until they were gone, and then he gave her a coat to put around her shoulders. "Let's go find your parents," he said. "That's just it," she said. "Those boys were being mean to me because I don't have any parents."
Nobody knew what to do. The woman wouldn't budge. She sat on a folding chair, a sketchbook in her hands, and she was drawing all the trees that surrounded the playfield. But they were supposed to have soccer practice, and she was on the half-way line. Coach had already talked to her once, but she said she'd move when she was done. One of the dads — a lawyer — couldn't get her to budge. One of the moms tried, too, but had no luck. They were going to call the cops soon, when a few of the girls, all suited up but not able to play, walked over, and before you knew it, all of them were drawing trees as well.