The narrow leaves of willow oak spin earthwards, catching flashes of morning light. In walks along the tree-lined canyons of city streets, we are all victors in a ticket-tape parade. The sun's rays, having lost their summer harshness, now angle into the sheltered air beneath trees, illuminating the languid descent of leaves from the vaulted canopy.
Not all leaves are so elegant. Pine needles plunge earthward like clouds of arrows. The broader leaves of maples fall in rocking zigzags. But willow oak leaves are designed to celebrate their momentary freedom in one long graceful pirouette. They spend summer clustered overhead, anonymous in dense masses of green. Then they become a million individualists in their first and last dance back to earth. In loose embrace with gravity, they fall--each spinning in its own manner, at its own tempo, each captured for a moment by the sun's beaming light. Having reached the ground, again anonymously massed, they mingle and merge and return by degrees to the soil from which they came.
At such times, it's hard to think of leaves as anything but a gift. In the competition for my heart between lawn and leaf, lawn has had to yield. I used to rake the leaves and mow the threadbare grass. But now I channel my yard's sylvan tendencies rather than struggle against them. The leaves fall where they do for a reason: to soften the soil, to catch the rain, to help dogwoods through the droughts and to give kids one more reason for delight. What pleasure to trace a leaf's whimsical flight and find, at bottom, a sense of rightness and rest, rather than impending chore. The Triangle is a forest masquerading as metropolis, and we are the beneficiaries of its golden rain.