"Only connect."

T(a leaf falls)ke Five


Autumn. Every autumn has always reminded me of every other autumn, probably because, for so long, my year began in September with the start of school. Crisp air, turning leaves, and I am there – everywhere I had been before (at yearly intervals), every classroom, every walk to the library, every Saturday passed in the beauty of the leaves. Apples: dipped in caramel, or as hot cider. And, as I moved into adolescence, The Poem, by e.e. cummings, of course, speaking the essence of my autumnal soul:


That started in high school and returned to reunite with me every year since. By the time the new school year had moved from late summer days into fall, I had once again disappointed myself: all my plans and hopes for a new beginning, the childish dream of recreating myself as a new me, had failed. From the start, it was a slowly read/spoken/thought poem, brief as it is, but drawn out by me, full of all the wistfulness, longing, and inward travel that autumn evoked: an ending, as well as a beginning.

Autumn, like other times and other things, went through a faltering period after I left school and began the search for my grown self. My being was so attuned to the seasonal change, that I continued in the old atmosphere for years after the last paper was turned in, the last test taken. With no outer assignment, I unwittingly gave myself one: a yearly reading of my “autumn” novel, May Sarton’s “Kinds of Love.” A creature of habits, I have worn the same scarf – dark green and covered with colored leaves and mushrooms – from October till the end of November. An apple in any form still holds the magic.

But the poem, which hasn’t left me, has somehow managed to alter. Just when it happened, or how, I couldn’t say. It didn’t used to bring a tune with it, though it could have – “Autumn Leaves” would have worked. One day I was raking neighborhood leaves (the back yard, something of a downhill bowl, accumulates a botanist’s delight in the array of leaves which gather from who knows where, but are unrelated to the trees in this yard). Raking leaves, and including a bit of free form movement, unobserved as I believed myself to be, and I heard it. The Poem was in my mind, of course, but now it had an accompaniment: “Take Five!”

How could it be, and how could that work? Yet, it does. Embedded in The Poem I have always seen my autumnal accompanying mood: “loneliness.” Even when I’m not feeling lonely, the season itself can evoke it. After so many years, I finally saw the other word embedded: oneliness. Is it a word? It is at least a state of being, sometimes meaning, for me, that I am one person in the world, sometimes that I am one with the world, the season, the leaves, the raking dance. Suspend disbelief, and judgment, and try it. Just cautiously at first, slowly .. and listen.

What can this mean? For me, not a rejection of times remembered, nor the pleasant habits and associations I have with autumn. They don’t hurt me, and I enjoy them. And friends with a sense of occasion seem to appreciate them, as well. The music that arrived all unexpected seems to tell me, simply, take a break, a breath. Suspend the sense of world and being part of it, or not, and just dance your free form with the leaves. So I do. I take five and watch a leaf fall.

Dave Brubeck original video


8 thoughts on “T(a leaf falls)ke Five

  1. “oneliness” – great word in a beautiful poem

  2. E: You write so, so beautifully. Every line of this autumn meditation was pure pleasure. I, too, love the word “oneliness,” and your words do such a beautiful job of removing that initial “l” that may have been there initially. As for Take Five–I feel I see/hear the connection, too. There is in it, perhaps because it’s many years old now and Brubeck isn’t with us anymore–a mixture of the poignant and the exuberant like that with which you conclude: “Suspend the sense of world and being part of it, or not, and just dance your free form with the leaves. So I do. I take five and watch a leaf fall.” I think I love most of all that “or not” you’ve tucked in there, that extra way of giving permission to do as you wish.

    • Susan, you are so generous! I’m most of all pleased that you can sense the Take Five connection. That makes me feel that all the connecting, that nature, poetry, and this music did on their own, then linked to me and then to you. These links through various ways of communicating and understanding are wonderful! And in return, your word “meditation” has become part of my leaf raking experience since you wrote it here, so I thank you.

      I have been reading your early thoughts on more linking, the composers’ passing of the torch you’ve mentioned over at I’ll Think of Something Later. I look forward to reading and listening to that development. You’ve said that you are also working on your list of 20th century works, and, in the past, you have posted favorites of the year. A poll of your readers to find out what their picks from among your past year’s offerings might be fun (obviously, I say this because I’ve already got mine)!

  3. From loneliness to oneliness – I treasure that. A wonderful meditation on how our attitudes to the seasons can change if we do. I think I’m muich more comfortable now with the idea of nature reining in, saving its strength, rather than dying, which is how I used to see it. And of course there are so many different musical takes, even in late romantic music (Mahler’s The Lonely Man in Autumn in Das Lied von der Erde, for instance, v the nostalgic ecstasy of Strauss’s September from the Four Last Songs.

  4. David, I love your phrasing, “nature reining in, saving its strength.” I think we view it as dying when we’re young and see the dramatic contrast; possibly it was grown-ups telling us that things were dying. But when you spend time close up, as you do in your nature hikes, you notice the subtle signs in so many plants of renewal in the waiting. The repertoire of music in homage to autumn is growing. I listened to the two pieces you have now introduced. I’m sure you have heard Jessye Norman singing the Strauss – not leaf raking music perhaps, but perfect for another autumnal mood, and oh so beautiful!

  5. I saw your comment on The Solitary Walker and came for a visit – I hope it is not too late to comment. I enjoyed reading your post. I also like your world of oneliness – it would fit me very well too. As for Take Five – this is one of my favorite pieces – I think I bought the 33 LP in the early 60s when I lived in San Francisco – a long time ago, so several years ago I bought it again as a CD so I could hear it in the car.

    • I took a peek at your site, too! It looks like we are approaching the world in different directions at the moment – you are doing a lot of exploring, while I’m walking mostly an inward path. This is what makes it so interesting to read about one another’s views. Thank you for visiting!

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