No snow here, not much rain, but falling leaves. In Bakersfield, leaves count for weather. A welcome stand-in for rain and snow. The best man at your wedding when your first choice is unable to attend.
A few nights ago, the weather was changing. The day had been surprisingly warm, the sort of warmth that is welcome but seems temporary, auguring a shift in temperature.
The breeze blew and the leaves made that sound. The sound of leaves. The sound of rain. The sound of one or the other. It was hard to tell which one it was and when you are relaxed and lying on your back either sound is music.
Leaves are everywhere. They cover lawns, wedge themselves in azaleas, boxwood and privet and hold tight on sycamores, liquidambars, mulberries and flowering plums. Open a window and the leaves will flutter inside like large brown moths in the summer.
I know I should pick them up before the leaves are ground in the carpet, but they look festive against the oatmeal-colored shag. They look like centerpieces at a holiday table. Like something you don’t mind looking at after the table is empty and the guests have gone home.
Sitting on the front porch in the late afternoon, the leaves fall quietly from the liquidambars. They fall like snow. Brilliant gold and red snow. The sort of snow you might see in a wild night of dreams should you have started the evening with two old fashioneds, a steak doused in pepper sauce, flanked by mashed potatoes and cheese bread and topped off with a whipped cream dessert.
The leaves fall quietly. Quietly like snow, delivering the peace that a quiet snowfall delivers.
Day and night they fall. The leaves stack up like interest in a passbook savings account, or like the way interest used to stack up in savings accounts when they actually paid interest and were worth having your money in.
The leaves are piled like snow drifts. Some of the drifts are high, and some are long and wide enough to bury people toe-to-toe and still be deep enough to cover their noses.
The leaves are all colors: red, orange, green, brown and purple. Together they look like a leaf fruit salad. A colorful fruit salad that a giraffe might enjoy.
A pile of leaves is tempting for a granddaughter. Walk through them or jump in the middle. They’re like snow, but warm snow that smells better and doesn’t soak your boots.
The lawn is covered with leaves even if you raked yesterday. It makes you want to give up raking. Give up raking and take up sitting on the porch and watching the leaves fall. Sitting and watching is a better plan, isn’t it?
The breeze picks up and the leaves skitter down the street. It reminds me of the scene in “The Last Picture Show,” when the wind is blowing down the empty street, past the Royal Theater. The West Texas town is dying and the movie is about over.
Except, this ending is different. Nothing is dying. Not the town. Not the season and not the tranquility that falling leaves bring.
Let them fall. The best man has just arrived.