In spite of several drenching rains and cold snaps, some of the trees this autumn–randomly, it seems, since there is no rhyme or reason to what sorts of trees do it–have refused to shake off their leaves, clenching tight against the onslaughts that threaten to ruin them. I’ve particularly been watching the progress of a tree on 700 East, a big, vivid yellow maple that has been resisting wind and rain and freeze. The top was the first to go, newer growth more tenuously attached, and day by day after that I saw the leaf line descend lower, a bright yellow skirt shimmied down by the wind, its hem more tattered daily. Yet the tree’s hips clung tightly, bracing against the disrobing, until finally this week, driving by, I saw that the undressing was complete. The skirt lay shredded, fanned out at the feet of the lithe trunk; the tree’s pale limbs were swaying, bared bones borne on the breeze.
On campus, full orange trees, like high pumpkins, hold their color beside trees that are only baskets of branches, their contents spilled on the browning grass, bright hues layered and damp. Down 600 South, broad lemon yellow leaves flap stubbornly on branches clenched against winter, though the tree next to it is showing signs of battle–foliage rusted and curled, pocked by near-frost and withering on the stem, yet tenacious, rebellious, unyielding. Ornamental pears turn late, their greens going to a hesitant orange, a rosy blush, well after most of the others have felt stems snap from limbs, slip through twiggy fingers.
Watching them, I try to hold firm against my own approaching winter.