Walking to work this morning, I notice the last of autumn's withered leaves scattered about the pavement - scraps of tattered brown - the discarded wrapping of a season now turned to litter.
How much they have survived to be here! Tempests of leaf blowers and car exhausts. The tyranny of rake and sackcloth, inquisitions of sleet and rain. Then the snow pressing them between its blank pages, and the melting waters licking them apart.
And the feet, always the feet.
Is there something about these leaves that has singled them out? Some lightness approaching ingenuity, some quality of shape or character? Or is it just luck that they have made it, that they were left behind when others were taken? And do they suffer now with a survivor's knowledge, trapped between gratitude and unworthiness, unsure of what to do with this dispensation they have been granted?
Where do they come from anyway, these leaves? Did they fall from this tree that now towers above them, bare, having forgotten its days of being green? Or were they spilled from some distant branch, blown for miles by wind and slipstream, to lie defeated on this nameless sidewalk, their skin dried to fine parchment, the veins showing as clear as handwriting.
The leaves say nothing, have no message. Even if we could speak their language their memories would mean nothing to us -being human, and in Spring. They are like the veterans from old battles you see sunning themselves in the park, the kind who never talk about their past, but bear witness to it simply by being there.