Walking with Leaves


When I was in high school, I took Spanish at the University of Montana. I can remember walking away from the imposing brick of Hellgate on Higgins Street, through the bright chill of September and October, and I swear I never saw another person.

It’s not possible, of course, because it was the middle of the afternoon, in the middle of a busy neighborhood, in the middle of a college town—but I don’t remember other people being there. I remember the leaves with sun at their backs and the sheer blue beyond, a color that is only sky. I remember the sidewalks scattered with yellow and orange leaves, and the rare dry red or purple among them, like mysterious reminders of intensity, as if a hue might evoke a metaphor for all the joy captured in a season, or a single drifting leaf.

And that is what I felt; a bizarre and profound joy, that I could see all this and that I owned this moment, the way I might own a memory or a particularly delicious morsel of food. I could taste ‘now’ in the crisp air and I was powerful.

The walk itself was nerve-racking, though, because I was 17, walking toward a place where no one would know me or even say hello. Those leaves and rushing backdrop of sky were escape from certain impending doom; I would say something stupid, mispronounce a word or fail to understand the assignment. Or worse, I would know more, much more, than my 20- or 21-year-old ‘conversation partner,’ and I would have to whisper the instructions to her in English, knowing all the while that she resented me for it.

Yet somehow, the walk toward loneliness was a refuge from it. Sometimes being alone is just like that – better.


**This post was inspired by Write on Edge’s weekly prompt with a word limit of 300. For more seasonally inspired flashes, click here.


6 responses »

    • Mm, yeah, let me reiterate the cliche “kids can be cruel” quip. I should probably admit that while this post was based in truth — especially the imagery — it was probably somewhat one-sided because of the attempt to be focused and tell a particular sort of story. Thank you for reading!

  1. Nice how you take the big description of the autumn world and day outside you, and move in to describe your inner landscape — ending with a profound insight on being alone. I can see the leaves agains the sky — you make that vivid. And you make your solitude vivid also.

    • That juxtaposition can be so good for us to explore. It’s so hard to understand how we relate to the world around us, but when we can find even the tiniest thread of connection, it can be transformational.

      Thank you for the lovely comment.

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