As Seen Through the Leaves

by Mary Padilla

There’s a cloud on the pond. You used to see them overhead, looking up from a blanket at the beach or lying in a field. But there the grasses and wildflowers could get in the way of your line of sight. Now it’s the leaves. They roof over everything. You only feel the occasional drop from a gentle rain when it makes it through their overlapping panes. They spread themselves out like that to catch all the sun and stay alive. But this isn’t a dense rainforest. It’s oak and hickory, second growth. So enough light gets through that you can tell where it’s coming from as it shifts through the day.

But you can’t feel its heat anymore. It’s filtered out now. And it’s getting cooler, as the season changes.

Things have slowed down, and you have the chance to notice such things and to see and hear the squirrels, and the birds, and the bugs. And you have nowhere to go, which focuses your attention.

At night in the summer there are fireflies. But last night there were fireworks too, in the sky over the town. You used to go to see them. Last night they were partly visible through the trees from the top of this little hill. Some scattered points of brilliant colored light flickered up in an arc and then down, tracing a parabola on the distant sky beyond the trees. Succeeding waves of them kept coming, seen and not seen, as they rose and fell in volleys behind the leaves.

The booms trailed slightly behind, slowed by the distance, which muffled their loudness. It matched the intense insect sound of the night, and made a fitting counterpoint. The scene reminded you of a forest fire once seen through the trees at night in the Australian Outback.

Part way through, your attention was distracted by a beam of light coming down the road at the bottom of the hill, too slow for a car, too fast for on foot. When it got to some breaks between the trees you saw it was a cart drawn by a dark horse – or pony – going the wrong way for that side of the road, soundlessly. A shadowy figure within was shining a searchlight straight ahead. You couldn’t hear the wheels – rubber? – or the hoofbeats – unshod?

Between these glimpses through the leaves in the dark, so incomplete and intermittent, you kept asking yourself if that were what you were really seeing. But it lasted long enough that you could tell that yes, it was, although it seemed like a dream image, rather surreal.

No matter, you were beyond that now. The fireworks were over. The little interrupted points of life had stopped rising and falling.

Mary Padilla: I am interested in exploring ideas by translating them into words.