I go for a long walk in the park and watch the autumn leaves falling and think about the nearly 200 emergency calls that have gone unanswered in recent days. I think of my friend sitting alone, shaking, her car totaled.
More than leaves are turning rusty red, falling, and blowing into dusty piles. All those neat little hinges holding society together, keeping things flexible, are freezing or flaking, and the doors are falling off their jambs.
But still there is beauty, and beauty lets me breathe. I walk and snap pictures of rosy leaves, but when I see the photos, I think of Wim Wenders' 1974 film Alice in the Cities, a moving film about human kindness, the kindness of strangers. A journalist suffering from writing block stops jotting notes and starts to snap Polaroid photos. As he watches a photo develop, he says that the picture can't show what he sees. I feel the same when I look at my photos. I can't capture the wide sweep of the sky, the inexplicable brilliance of the leaves gone suddenly red or orange, the pungent aroma of oak leaves already on the ground.
As children, we would rake up huge piles of leaves, great masses of color, and then fall on those piles, always thinking that the leaves would catch us, support us as a pillow might but always we were surprised when the hard ground caught us first. But no matter. We came up laughing, bright leaves in our hair and sprouting from sweaters, jackets, jeans and then danced about like living breathing laughing trees. Such happiness is necessary as days grow shorter and winds colder.
These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man's eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
And passing even into my purer mind,
With tranquil restoration: -- feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
As have no slight or trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man's life,
His little, nameless, unremembered, acts
Of kindness and of love.