At first I only heard it. A soft pattering, like a low cool urgent stream tumbling over scattered gray slate stones, reflecting random flashes of the rare sunlight, wetting but not refreshing the earth beneath. Looking up, the blue-gray sky mirrored this imagined stream, low crenulated clouds, more cottony than smooth, slipping northeastward, foamy, with jagged white rents only hinting at the light but not the warmth of the mid-morning sun above. A single tree, one among dozens, randomly spaced, mature but not yet grand, all more alike than not, but all around rather than over me, stood trembling, its remaining small oval amber leaves vibrating, twisting to something unsensed while its green, rust, and barren neighbors stood perfectly and absolutely still. It was a sound like old ladies’ hands clapping. A slow yellow waterfall began as the trembling leaves dropped vertically to the dormant earth in a diminishing rustle. Yet nothing else moved, nothing except the shearing clouds. The tree’s shiver stopped, or perhaps paused, and an autumn stillness unlike any I had known since my midwestern childhood settled upon the morning. A poorly executed flock of tiny black birds silently darted overhead opposite the direction of the clouds. A squirrel expertly traced the top of the fenceline. The day came back to life.
P.S. Please forgive this self-indulgence.