When I was young, perhaps seven or eight, I remember my sister and I Sunday-driving through the wide neighborhood streets near the high school in Blackfoot, Idaho in my father's car. It was some time in late Autumn when the sun is still able to choose warmth even though the sky is as sharp as a razor and as far away as the moon. The trees, yellowed nicely, had finally kissed their leaves farewell and set them free on the wind. They'd spent all summer shading and sheltering the swallows and sparrows and countless other little gray and dirt-colored Idaho birds, listening to their talk, imagining they understood enough that when the time came they'd learned enough to fly off on their own, far away from the bleak little town on the edge of the reservation in a forgotten corner of the state. But when the time came, when the fingers of the trees relaxed and set them loose, they could only spin once or twice in the air before alighting on the grass, against the tall curbs or down into the street where they curled up on themselves and waited and waited.
Casey and I were in the backseat, standing, as you could in those days, looking out the back window, watching as the thrust of the car pushed the leaves aside and then pulled them in behind us where they rattled as they took chase, bouncing and crunching, leaving sad, broken bits of themselves––slivers in the road––behind. Casey and I cheered them on and when our father asked what we were watching I exclaimed, "They're chasing us, daddy! They're chasing us! Go faster." He glanced back in the rear view mirror and confirmed the army of leaves advancing and then falling behind as we sped ever forward, and bless him, he played along, slowing the car and letting them clatter forward, almost reaching us and then gunning it just as they reached for the tires beneath us.
It was an image I have never forgotten, and I have spent many a Fall afternoon walk with Duncan remembering it as I've watched the leaves rain gold and fire from the trees, roll across the sidewalk, heave through the grass or shatter against the curbs in the parking lots. There is nothing quiet or serene about Autumn and her colorful dancing minions are louder than even the wind, never content but always clambering for direction and movement, for the ghost-dreams of flight which haunt them through their final hours. On those days when the weight of the season has not taken my heart I like to run with Dunc across the grass, dodging the dried little hand-print shapes caught in the slowly yellowing blades, leaping over them as we cross the sidewalks. His joy at the chase is matched only by the surrender when we stand beneath the locust trees as the leaves swarm down on us, catching me around the shoulders, hanging from Roo's ears and clinging to his tail. Eventually we find ourselves on our backs staring upward, blinking leaves away when they waft down into our eyes, listening to their final mad frolic and the broken glass notes of their song.
There are not many days left of this part of Autumn, this Clambering Autumn when Orion rules the night and the naked trees, can only point, mute, at his path across the dark.