September for the Sycamores




This morning the sycamores are peeling back their bark and revealing a dull white skin.  Above, their iron arms are stretched out with thousands of pallid green and scorched-tip leaves holding on. The foliage is still thick, and I can only see glimpses of the sun from the ground. Little by little, however, the leaves are dropping prematurely.  None of the other trees, however, seem to making the same choice. The maples are still unassuaged by the heat and the horse chestnuts look nauseas, too ill to speak. Nothing has changed about the colors on the trees either. It is October now and the green on the leaves seems more like stagnancy. Many of the trees appear blighted by this summer’s wet weather; so instead of crisp, illustrious yellows and reds, the sickliness of chlorosis will be the bedding for next year.

There is some assurance, if the leaves on the sycamores were to fall off now then the tree would be able to live.  In their bark is secondary system of photosynthesizing chloroplast that serves as a backup generator. That is why sycamore glow an odd green hue when it rains. It is confusing to believe that a bare tree and can still be healthy and living.  This happens, as does the heat of September, and the long wait for fall.  Year-after-year this happens, and I forget! It is confusing to go through twenty-six summers and still have a seasonal amnesia: to not know what to expect out of the seasons every year.

It is complicated; maybe that is why I can never get the seasons straight. September is a complicated month and hard to believe, in part because some years September is an extension of August: a prolonged heat wave.  It is still summer, yes, but there is an expectation that after six months of hot weather fall will come quickly and stay long. But it doesn’t and the smell of chimney wood ash and cool-season mold is absent. More to the point, September is a complicated month because we must make the decision to leave or begin. It is the time when students falls into the rhythm of school. For farmers, it is the time when fields close up or rotate for colder weather. For the rest of nature, as the hours of daylight decrease, Time suggests either to leave or stock up.

We must make a choice; if that choice is to leave, well, it would be a good time to do so. The world is about to go dormant after all, and any death would be supported by that particular slow pace of fall and winter. It would not stop us so suddenly from our usual routine.  It would be ample time to acknowledge and mourn, before we must go back to our lives. Or so it would seem. In the reality of life’s processes, death is its own unexpected season with its own unpredictable weather. My grandfather passed in September, and while our family expected it, I could not expect the changes it would create. I did not expect the reaches of such a somber season either: the passing of so many family members of so many of my friends, so many calls, texts, and letters.  People pass every day, but I cannot help but notice the trend this past month.  Death in September is confusing for its timeliness.  It feels like something hollow and speechless, yet it feels like something purposeful and divine.

If I were to experience a lost in my family, then I am thankful it came now to make its bedding for winter. For the same reason, I am thankful for the soil beneath me on this trail of sycamore and for the water trickling along the trees’ roots—for all of all the history this planet endured, all its loss, and its choice to regenerate time and time again.  I am thankful for what fall will be this year regardless of the indication of leaves. I will wring out my confusion onto the forest floor, where it will crawl and settle and rest between the earth and thin sheet of sycamore leaves.  I will settle my thoughts there too so to not think of next year, of next February or next June. And, instead, I will think of my grandfather, family, and friends.  Meanwhile, my tears, like love leaving me, will reenter somewhere on this planet to make something of it next year.


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