Crushed Leaves

A colleague tells me her brother contracted Covid in January. A professional chef, he opened an oven and wondered what was wrong with the meatloaf — it had no smell. He survived after an intense illness.

So this week, I know I’m alive as Vermont autumn is all scent. The after school kids ask me to step into their fort. I lean over the wall built of leaf and vine and breathe in, and I’m eight-years-old again, with my siblings and the neighbor kids, building houses of fallen leaves.

Wood smoke and skunk and the soil I’ve turned over in the garden.

As the daylight shrinks noticeably and we turn more and more indoors, inevitably I look for sources of strength — geese flying low over our back porch, their wings rushing, the rising cream-colored moon, our neighbors’ laughing boys — and my youngest daughter on the cusp of young adulthood, sharing bits of her world in snippets, puzzling over this great big world.

Oh, good gigantic smile o’ the brown old earth,

      This autumn morning!

— Robert Browning

Calais, Vermont