Journal entry December 17, 2010: The leaves of five weeping willows, now bright yellow, still cling to stems in the sweep of long, hanging boughs. This is where Ralphie and I run too when gray days become too depressing and I need sunlight. The trees, in the last stage of dormancy, can’t infect me with a dose of vitamin B, but the golden park lifts my spirit, and Ralphie . . . well, he’s just happy to run around outdoors, nose to the ground.
My husband and I have made it a practice to keep the Willow Grove natural. As a result, there’s a good twelve inches of leaf mulch on the ground. This is one place we don’t have to hoe or spray weeds. It doesn’t take long for the fallen leaves to change. By the end of December, before the New Year begins, they’ll turn into a brown mat.
It rained last night, so I stand beneath the stringy willow skirts on a leafy sponge. Ralphie’s shaggy legs are wet and no longer white as he runs after a phoebe on the fence post. Smells of decay, mud, and moss rush together. The air is damp; pasture green, the sky a dull statue gray.
Having lived here for years, I know this scene well, how nature binds together layer-upon-layer in 3-D. I study however many details my eyes will allow me to discover: fence boards spackled with rust and moss, old manure spreader rims partly buried in leaves, a tiny mushroom peering out from the thick soggy sponge-of-a-ground, and an old willow stump that Ralphie just leaped from, awkwardly dragging a twig alongside his short frame. Ralphie brings the twig to me, tail twitching. Then he runs away. I chase after him because that’s how we play before I grow breathless and call timeout.
The willows take their own timeout. Soon the golden park will be brown. Skinny, dead boughs will drop and land willy-nilly, many like hand-stitched Xs on a crazy quilt. Once this happens, on days when the sky is gray, Ralphie and I will run to the backyard. Here, Chinese maple leaves dot the lawn and patio with bright yellow leaves. The surface isn’t a spongy mat though. When the grass isn’t too wet, my husband trims the lawn sucking up sunny-colored leaves. Between maintenance, more will drop. Well into the New Year, there’ll be a bright spot to lift my spirit. It will be a good year. Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre
Thank you for letting me share my world with you in 2010. I hope your year, in 2011, is filled with all things grand and special.