Mottled leaves drift and spin, brightly flickering through clear, brisk air as gravity and wind play their autumn game. Our children run and shriek, caught in the wind-blown excitement of the first Canadian front. Its currents whisper sweet promises of candy apples and ghostly costumes, holiday feasts and velvet dresses, cold cheeks, muffs, and cinnamon mingling with buttered brown sugar. And something more, I think, allowing a stillness to settle into my mood. On days such as this, children reveal truths so quiet and subtle they often go unnoticed. I resolve this afternoon, to listen.
Our youngest daughter, Lauren, searches through piles of leaves for hidden treasures. She brings her finds inside and lays them across the oak table in our kitchen. We peruse them one by one: a maple’s brilliant red star, a burning-orange crepe myrtle leaf, brown sycamore hands, a tallow’s purple heart and one simple green leaf now prized for so persistently holding onto its summer color. We delight in their variety: flocked and papery thin, brown-crackle thick, waxy, serrated, smooth, perfect oval. It is impossible to choose a favorite.
Looking up from the table, we spy visitors through the bay window, a quail couple we’ve observed since early spring. This time they’ve brought their brood. Heads bob and tails wiggle as they promenade through the yard. “Oh, cute! Look how many!” We rush to count – nine, eleven, twelve . . . twelve babies! “Oh, no!” One is going off on its own. Our hands flatten against the window panes and we hold our breath, but the mother quail is no slacker. With the crispness of a drill sergeant, she runs after her errant child and nudges it back in line. Our lungs fill with air.