The Leaves That Are Green Turn to Brown

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year

— Andy Williams


The dulcet-voiced crooner was referring to Christmas. For me, it’s November in East Texas, as the leaves turn to red, yellow and brown, and shower down — our version of a New England blizzard, but far easier to tolerate. Most of our sliding glass windows are open, since I finally found someone to custom make replacements for the missing screens. Before that, we could only open a few windows throughout the house. Now a gentle breeze sweeps through, bringing the smell of autumn — moist, decaying leaves, the occasional whiff of woodsmoke from a neighbor’s fireplace.

Our house is filled with large picture windows, with the much-smaller sliding windows below. From my swivel chair in the study, where I work, research and write each day, I can swivel and admire the Japanese maple whose leaves have turned a brilliant crimson. Or I can lean slightly and watch the cascade of leaves flying off the oak trees in our small front yard and up the street. Our 14-year-old Ford Escape hybrid, with 221,000 miles on it and going strong, is parked in the driveway, completely covered in leaves, much as a rare East Texas snowfall might do.

And by swiveling right, I can see the canopy of trees outside the formal living room windows, which are lagging behind in turning color or turning loose. In the living room, most days, Sam and Rosie are snoozing on the couch, while their feline brethren, Tater and Tot, occupy nearby chairs.

I can faintly hear my Beautiful Mystery Companion teaching virtually upstairs while I electronically fill interlibrary loan requests and prepare to teach my photography class, which wraps up next week. Later, I’ll get back to researching The Red-Lander, a Republic of Texas newspaper in San Augustine. I wrote a master’s thesis on it for UT-Austin that I plan to expand into a book. That’s how I spend my workweek. I am blessed to be able to work at home and enjoy such beauty outside my windows, especially in the midst of a pandemic that shows no sign of abating. Stay safe, my friends. Wear that mask.


We are having a bumper crop of acorns this autumn, bringing out a full herd of squirrels scampering about, stuffing them in their mouths and then, ahem, squirreling them away. But it would take the entire neighborhood of squirrels in our backyard to get rid of all the acorns. Tater loves to sit on the ottoman as I read outside under the gazebo. Lately, our solitude is disrupted by acorns ricocheting off the gazebo’s roof, the deck and the metal portion of our roof. He glares at me as if I were to blame. We closed and covered the swimming pool about a month ago — guaranteeing that expensive hole in the ground can’t cost me anything until next spring. Acorns and leaves have caused the cover to sag. Once the acorn onslaught has ended, I’ll have to use the skimmer net to fish them out. It is always something with a swimming pool.


Leaf blowers provide the constant soundtrack to life in this neighborhood during daylight hours, especially now when driveways quickly cover with leaves. It’s tricky to know where the edge of our circle driveway ends, and the lawn begins. On our cul-de-sac, with just seven houses, each uses a different yard-cleaning company. That pretty much guarantees somebody’s yard is being cleaned each day, filling the air with the high-pitched whine of blowers. It is always a relief when silence returns, especially if I am sitting outside reading.

I know: More first-world problems. Landscape crews are hard-working folks. The two guys who clean our yard, which is filled with trees, can have it cleaned up in a couple of hours at most. It would take me all day. The first fall we lived here, eight years ago, I decided to blow and bag the leaves myself. It would take all day for me to do what these guys get done in a few hours.

After that first season, I decided my time was better spent doing something else — like admiring the autumn color and the rustle of leaves across the deck, the acorns bouncing off the roof.

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