Fortunately, all the leaves are brown

Column by Craig Marshall Smith


Autumn leaves. I wish it wouldn't. I wish it would stay here all year. I don't get seasonal depression in autumn and winter. I get seasonal inspiration at this time of year.

I don't humbug the darker-earlier days, I humbug the sweltering summer, when mosquito soup is on the menu and both of us (the dachshund and I) are drooling. I see no benefit in the summer months, other than seeing my mail carrier, Phoebe, who wears a pith helmet.

Give me now until March 10*. The lawn mower is put away. Not only that, my neighbors have put away their lawn mowers too. I don't hear the roar of Briggs & Strattons. And I can't hear little children with their fingernails-on-a-chalkboard voices. It's serene.

Don't be telling me about snowblowers and snowplows. They come out maybe half a dozen days.

There's apple cider. There is no better liquid. A sip immediately takes me back to touch football in Ann Arbor, wiping my nose on the sleeve of my dad's too-big-for-me University of Michigan sweatshirt, and knocking the crap out of Don Portman before he could reach the goal line that was marked with an old pumpkin.

Walking in the snow you'll hear a lovely crunch beneath your boots. Sure, my best friend Greg walked in the snow, fell, and had a spiral break of his right ankle. Don't remind me.

OK. The dog refuses to go outside on his own at this time of the year. I see dogs playing in the snow. They take naps in the snow. They meet up and play poker in the snow. Not mine.

And, yes, they are few things more unattractive than slush flying at your windshield.

But evenings at home couldn't be better. I sit on the couch, I pull a blanket up, and re-read “Great Expectations.” I visualize Pip's breath out there on the moors. And Estella baking a winter goose. And Joe cursing in the forge.

In the summer all I do is perspire. You can only take off so many clothes. But at this time of year we layer. Layer, lady, layer.

(Did you know that “Lay Lady Lay” is grammatically incorrect?)

I dearly love mornings right now. There is not a sound in the house that I don't create. I have the radio or a CD on the down-low. Sometimes I paint. At 4 in the morning I might be painting. I am on Walden Pond. In an Ansel Adams photograph. Hot coffee fills my nostrils. The smell of hot coffee fills my nostrils.

Adams did say, “Not everyone trusts paintings, but people believe photographs.” Phooey, Ansel-man. How hard is it to doctor a photograph? Some old crust of an actor can look like he's chiseled again.

Let's talk about sleds, Rosebud. Is there anything more emblematic of our youth and of good, good times? If a weathered baseball glove from your Little League days can bring a tear to your eye, so can your dear Flexible Flyer. I can still picture little Jimmy on the top of the hill with his sled, just before zooming down and falling into a hole in the ice.

We didn't have cell phones back then, so Jimmy's rescue took a while. I can still hear his teeth.

You may be saying, Smith, none of this sounds very appealing. I think it's just the way you and I perceive things. Summer is easy. It's more difficult to appreciate autumn and winter. I think the best friendships are the ones that take the most time to develop, the ones we have to work on.

From now until *Daylight Saving Time, the conditions assertively remind me that I am alive. I have to work on my relationship with these months because they work on me.

Quote: “The best mirror is an old friend.” George Herbert.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at


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