I had risen, as was my custom, around 7:00 am, turned on the coffee pot, and looked across the tree tops to the bare mountain opposite my cabin on Blackrock Mountain. Pastel streaks of dawn lifted away the last vestiges of night. It was the first official day of winter, though the preceding weeks had been much colder than average.
A breeze was blowing softly through the denuded trees. But wait! One solitary brown leaf clung tenaciously to its home on the branch of the white oak in front of me. It was quivering, convulsing, almost. It captured my attention. It wasn’t windy enough to make the leaf shake like that. It was all alone. I thought to myself, “That poor leaf is the last one standing. What’s it doing? Is it trying to release itself and join its family on the ground below?” Finally it stopped shivering.
I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat down at the farm house table to put the day in order. Farmers in the village of Nellysford had said that southwest winds would collide with an approaching cold front and bring heavy rains to the Blue Ridge for the next two days. “I had hoped it would snow,” I told them. The rest of the day panned out as planned. After a satisfying dinner of chili and corn bread, I succumbed to sleep. I had long ago forgotten about the leaf.
The next morning, as I turned on the coffee pot, I remembered the drama of the leaf and rushed to the window. It was foggy and damp; a heavy rain pounded the deck outside. Gone. Gone. I was inexplicably panic-stricken as I searched for the leaf. Did it give up and let go? Or did Old Man Winter finally claim it?
And the leaf, now on the ground with others of its kind, did it celebrate the reunion or lament losing the fight? Winter had truly arrived; I was profoundly saddened by the departure of the last leaf.