. . . drift by the window
The autumn leaves of red and gold
I see your lips, the summer kisses
The sun-burned hands I used to hold
Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I'll hear old winter's song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall
When I hear Nat King Cole or Frank Sinatra sing Autumn Leaves, I feel autumn just as strongly as when I look out my window and see the maples and the birches so colorfully marking the change of seasons. This view from my front window shows the leaves just starting to fall.
The two images below show Japanese maples – a fiery red threadleaf and a coral bark with leaves of golden glitter. I photographed both in November 2010. Last year, they were not even close to being this brilliant, and for all I know they may never be again. All the more reason to celebrate every season fully; its riches do not necessarily come again.
Though vibrancy like this comes only in autumn, for some the season signifies loss and emptiness. Loneliness and longing – in gardening and life. As the season wears on, so do those brilliant hues, eventually fading away. And that's when the sense of emptiness afflicts some gardeners.
Rose-colored and red-hot, summer gardens do not admit even the idea of emptiness; something, if only weeds, will fill every nook and cranny. Blooms explode constantly, leaves tightly hug trees and shrubs, filling our hearts and minds.
But as the days grow shorter, for some they grow longer because the garden spares down, leaving empty spaces in many gardeners' days; it's as if the garden – or a huge part of it – has gone away, leaving haunting memories of loss.
But there is much life and joy to celebrate. Blooms like the harvest mums and the falling leaves help make autumn the flip side of spring, bold and bright and in the sharp-angled light somehow . . . more energizing, crisper, edgier than spring's pudgier presentation.
With scores of autumns behind me, I have learned to appreciate the falling leaves, the spaces. And, always, the song. Once more, Frank. Sing it again, Nat.