Brian's submission

Thanks, again, to Wendy, Alison, my mom and Brian for sending me your stories inspired by my photo prompt.

If you still want to get it on the fun, send me your story before Tuesday. I'll publish it next Wednesday.

Without further ado...a story from my super-talented writer friend, Brian!

Thoughts on a Photograph of Fallen Leaves

It wasn’t until last year that I survived a Kansas winter without experiencing periodic self-pity, bits of depression, and occasional and predictable bouts of anger at the season. It is the length of winter that proves the greatest test of my patience. The holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, plus a delightful winter break (a blessing of being in the education field) easily carry me through to mid-January. But once a new semester begins and the cold continues – even intensifies – my patience begins to wear thin.

Having experienced this frustration a few years in a row, cursing the biting cold, knowing the false hope of late February and then the false hope of March, I would on occasion raise a defiant third finger to the bullying Kansas wind, tug my hoodie closer about my face and drag discontentedly on another hand-rolled cigarette, imagining the warmer days of spring yet not truly believing they would ever arrive. This is no exaggeration. I remember considering a couple years ago, without much skepticism, that spring and summer were mere dreams, fantasies. April had come and winter had not gone. Despite Eliot’s warning that “April is the cruelest month,” I was ill-prepared and found myself in near hopeless despair. My body was perpetually stiff, not only from the cold but also from a tightly wound anger and resentment toward nature and whatever creator granted substantial power to something other than myself.

These thoughts about winter, about survival, would not exist now, in a delightfully mild November, but for the visible and tactile reminders of what is to come. I can scan the horizon – wherever I am in Kansas City – and see the spines and limbs of naked trees stretching toward the sky. They will appear, for many months now, as bodies, dead but not decayed, silhouetted in such sparseness that imagining them in the fullness of life will escape my abilities, though I am sure other, more imaginative and creative minds can preserve them in their more fecund glory.

The truth is, I love fall. As beautiful as fall is in Kansas, I never live through a fall here without remembering my few years in Ohio, where the autumn temperatures were perhaps slightly warmer and the precipitation slightly greater, resulting in an extended explosion of color in October and November. But occasional nostalgia for Ohio leaves none of Kansas’ fall beauty lost on me. There is a maple tree in our south yard which towers above the house. A week ago, our yard was covered with the brightness of a thousand leaves, the color of which one could describe as red if one wanted to keep things simple, and which one might describe as red mated with coral if one wanted to paint a slightly more accurate picture for those not blessed with a view of our yard. Freshly fallen, whether showing its glossy topside or its muted, vein-textured underside, each leaf spoke with a brightness which commanded attention. Now, a week later, the lively color fades. Last weekend, the neighbors to the south commenced their autumn labor, amassing multiple piles of leaves that would put any small child in a state of excited awe. In a few weeks, they may find themselves raking again, their yard full of fallen leaves from our maple tree. I do not wish to be un-neighborly. Neither do I wish to labor. But it is not laziness alone that causes my reluctance to rake this mass of leaves which lie in purgatory.

One might say leaves are, in their own way spiritual, even sexual. As they fall to the ground, as they die, they are able to brush most intimately against those leaves which served as their neighbors for many spring and summer months, and the further the leaves become removed from apparent life, the more they live out the real intimacy and true unity for which they are purposed. Seven months in a tree, in sight of one another, perhaps in a heavy wind brushing one another briefly, delightfully, catching a hint of community, yet strong in their solitude, and then they fall, and a community of leaves lies on the ground together, their intimacies intensifying as time passes, as leaf bodies decay and meld into one another to form something new, and to become part of the source. And so Fall, appropriately named, deceives us in its downward movement, for it is ultimately a gift of life to us all.

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