“The leaves are hardly heard, but they are heard just so much that men also, who are destined at the end to grow glorious and to die, look up and hear them falling.”
Hilaire Belloc, ‘Autumn and the Fall of Leaves’ in Hills and the Sea
No matter how busy or distracted we get, autumn still happens. Sometimes we might wish nature would stop and wait, out of deference to our over-busy schedule.
That the trees do not wait is perhaps a gentle reminder of many other things that will not wait, that call for our attending to each day.
The natural world speaks to us in so many voices. It speaks most powerfully, perhaps, when we recognize something of ourselves in it. Belloc writes of autumn as tending to unsettle us. The falling of leaves can cut a little close to the bone.
“Whatever permanent, uneasy question is native to men, comes forward most insistent and most loud at such times.”
It’s not that we have to go out in the woods and explicitly answer that permanent, uneasy question. It might be enough for us just to look up, and to listen. And to feel a little more our place in reality.
For every tree there will come a year in which its leaves will fall, never to be replaced. If the falling of leaves is poignant it is at root because human life is poignant; and a gift; something to be treasured and savored each day.
Whether we go for a walk alone, or alone with someone we love, something of who we are is waiting for us under the trees. Today.
Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953), born of a French father and English mother, was a poet, historian, and essayist.
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