Leaf Picking along 10th Street

leaves 1

This last day of September was a windy one, and more of fall’s fledgling foliage made its meandering way to the sidewalks, streets, and grassy margins of Arlington.  I was walking to a cafe to do some grading and found myself picking up leaves from the ground.  I’d been thinking about a project from my childhood in which fall leaves were pressed between sheets of wax paper with an iron and then hung in the window.  In fact, I’d thought of it several times in the last week and assumed it would probably stay just a thought since there’s grading and dishes and a dozen other more sensible things to do than iron leaves and wax paper.  But . . .

Call it the kid in me, or the one-time art major who collected found objects from dumpster detritus, or the poet who rebels against the hegemony of analysis that is grading–some me in me heard the call of a yellow spade-shaped leaf and answered.  One leaf in hand, it was easy to keep going.  In fact, it was hard to stop, though ardently ignoring every passer-by seemed an important part of leaf picking along 10th street.  After all, this is no Amherst, Mass, no Taos, New Mexico, no Portland, Oregon.  This is D.C.–a place for getting things done and being somebody.  What frivolity–this staring at the ground, this tarrying on the way to work, this collecting colors–colors!

Back at home a few hours later, the ironing did not go so well.  I could only get one composition to stick.  The internet only helped me surmise that the project had never been quite what I remembered.

Then I went for a run down to the Netherlands Carillon.  I sat on the base of the tower and looked out at the Lincoln and Washington Memorials blazing white against the blue sky.  And then a bald eagle flew overhead and circled and bobbed and seemed to be surfing the wind, and I thought, so someone else is enjoying some frivolity today.  Then I second-guessed myself.  Maybe the eagle had been struggling with the wind.  Maybe it had been knocked of course.  But then, doesn’t frivolity look just like that?

 

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