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Lennon's Leaves

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Its the end of November, autumn is full swing and winter is on the horizon. Writer J. Robert Lennon shares part of his short story "Leaves" about warm fall colors in Ithaca, New York during his favorite time of year.

by J. Robert Lennon

Leaves. We live in a profusely and variously foliated area. And our trees are large and old, cultivated by an excellent public works department. So it is not surprising that our town draws tourists from far away come fall, when the leaves change color.

They drive through our residential streets with their out-of-state license plates, pointing out to one another the extraordinary colors, from the stunning reds of the red maple and black oak, to the orange of the birches, and the radiant yellow of the ginkgo, the streetside specialty here.

Occasionally a visitor will pull over and commiserate with us about the beauty of our leaves, but none of them ever thanks us for fertilizing the soil, for keeping insects at bay, for treating the wounds caused by storms, and droughts, and by old age.

When the tourists return to their own towns, our leaves grow drab. They fall off our trees and into our yards and gutters, and if we don't get rid of them, they sit there and turn black and wet under the snow. Nobody comes to look at them then. We walk through them in our boots on the way to our cars, and try to forget what's happened. And we endure the winter. And eventually the city comes and takes the leaves away. We do our best to put them out of our minds, to enjoy the bleak view of the valley between the bare branches of the trees.

The one saving grace of all this is the spring, when new leaves arrive. They've never yet failed to do so. They start our tiny and green like mint candies. And for a short time, they're ours alone and nobody else's. And then in summer, even when wind and rain and hail tear through them, even then, they stay right on the trees, and make a sound like applause, all summer long, as if they're thanking us for spending this time with them, before the tourists come and take them away.

  • Music Bridge:
    Artist: Tones on Tail
    CD: Tones on Tail (Beggars)


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