I'm at the window of the Virginia Cafe. Most of the leaves outside are yellow, but towards the hearts of the trees, some are still green. I've seen this a few times this year. There's one especially striking ilanthus near my house, showers of yellow on the outside, and inside, all brilliant green. I don't know if this year is different, or if I've just never noticed it before. Do a tree's leaves usually turn from the outside in?
In any case, the leaves are wet and glowing yellow, and they fall one by one, rocking as though they were the visible ends of ghostly seesaws: back and forth, up and down. They are all bright and yellow. The semantic fields of autumn are pushing me to say “gold,” but there is no gold there, not a hint of it. It's yellow, painfully intense and pure. Some of the trees have a dusting of lichen that answers to the colors of the leaves. But there is no gold anywhere.
Something wary and feral wakes in me on wet, glowing days like this. I want to wander and climb: it's a restlessness that makes me want to trace lines on the faces of strangers, to read their features like a text in Braille. The whole world seems like a faintly glowing cipher, a letter in an unknown script. My kinship isn't with stupid, obvious human beings: it's with whatever demiurge created them, with the hand that painted both the faces and the leaves. Not God the Father, but some slighter, flickering deity in love with curves and oblique lines. There is something being said that neither the faces nor the leaves ever understood. It's neither happy nor kind, but there's an alien delight in it, and I'm tempted to forswear my humanity and follow that delight instead. As if you might open a notebook and shake it so that all the written letters fell out of it, like thin wire confections and curlicues, and drifted on the floor: or as if you might take the print of a face, on one of those golden leaves, take the delineations, and leave only a glowing blur behind – a shapeless mute nob on a neck-stalk, not even aware that the lines that used to make its face have been taken away. How, after all, could it ever know? Who would tell it?
And now the light drains away, and the rain picks up. The leaves fall faster, and the glow is all gone. A dull and sodden world supervenes, and my imagined kinship with the demiurge makes me frightened and ashamed. Time to wrap my coat closer around me, and walk back to the office. And hope not to meet myself on the way.