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Volume 15, Issue 4: Flotsam

Blue Bugs

Nathan Wilson

If I had more hair, the wind could break me in half. Outside my window thick trees are bending and swinging in nothing more than a light wind, pulled by nothing more than their leaves. Any child could pull some yellow leaf off a branch, but the wind is many children pulling at them all. If you're gentle, you can bend a tree. If you have enough hands.

How many men have written about Autumn? How many times can we talk about "crunching leaves" or "yellows, reds and golds?" Fall is so done.
There are two or three days a year when the blue and white bugs come out. The abdomen is blue with white fur all over the thorax. That might be backward. I've already forgotten as they disappeared yesterday. Every year they come, and every year they are forgotten. But they rearrive with a sort of nostalgia. I see them flock slowly in their gnatlike fashion, and I remember what I had forgotten. Though I do not know now, I will know next year, suddenly, exactly what one will look like when I pull it out of the air. Some year I will not forget. I will look at the date and think, "Any day now. The blue bugs should be here soon." Someday, I will remember before I see.
I have never heard a man's death rattle. I have heard the world's. It is the sound of leaves dragging and scraping across the street when there are no other noises. They rattle in the wake of a truck that is long past. They are dead, but moving, more alive, somehow more relatable than when they were green on the tree. Every year I walk through town and watch leaves skitter along, alone or in packs, and I kick at the piles. On the beatiful streets, I will teach my son to skoot his feet so the leaves pile up to his knees. Together we will wade in dry, dead, but beautiful insignificance.
Many have written about Fall. No one has ever captured it. If they had, it wouldn't come back around. It is strange that we do not grow weary of it. We don't hang our heads and complain, "Well, the leaves are changing again. I guess there's no stopping it." Instead, we rake them into piles, and frolick. We wear wool sweaters when we don't need them, and sometimes when we do. We drink cider, and eat apples pulled from trees with our own hands. We revel in what always feels like the shortest season.
Somehow God is not bored by our seasons. We sleep that we might wake. We live that we might die. We die that we might live. Men are born, they marry, beget children, and die. Men are born, they marry, beget children, and die. Men are born. . .
The world sits by a dying fire in the Fall. The coals are spread throughout the streets.
One Fall, somewhere in my past, an afternoon was spent collecting all the maple death available into our front yard. It was a terrific pile. A pile that I have yet to match. Not quite Goliath height, but close. A friend and I (his honest sweat had piled leaves as well as mine) began the leaf games. We brought the barrow mound low, and built it up again. We brought it low and mounded it higher. We laughed and destroyed and rebuilt. We are man, we are made in God's image, and we couldn't help it. This is joy with an itchy neck.
My father returned from work and we stood proudly by our pile. He approached at a walk, discarded the briefcase, and broke into a run. The half flip was well-executed. He was verticle, but his head was down when he entered the pile and disappeared, swallowed by a season.
There is always a joy in death, when it's followed by resurrection. Fall without Spring does not exist in this world, and cannot. We can laugh on our death beds because we do in the leaf pile. We laugh in the leaf pile because it will not hold us forever.
I cannot resist chestnuts. When on walks with my wife, I must always remember to bring pockets. I will take as many as I can carry, polishing each one, building a hoard in my home. My three year-old niece tells me that in England, they are called konkers. I am grateful to her. It is a more wholesome name. A poem more worthy of its subject.
A mountain ash tree is heavily laden in my backyard. For no rational reason it has chosen to shoulder bundles of orange berries. They are brighter than orange, but they are not red. Nearly every berry bundle holds a small spider, or some of its webbing. These bright berries seem to require action, but I'm unsure what. It is not important. We will meet here again next year. They will be back, perhaps then I will know.
Worms have had their fun in all of my pears. It is tree fat with fruit, with no self-control, and no sense of decorum. And every pear now tunneled. It is a great loss. The fruit mocks me through my window, hanging in the sunlight, tempting me to once again, scour its branches for some bulbous growth overlooked by small vandals. There is one in particular that I would like to check, but my hopes are not high.
The worms have robbed me, but not completely. They do not know the depth of my tree's magic. Next year, its leaves will once again shatter the air with sunlight and make me pears. And next year I will remember the marauding worm clans. Next year I will revenge myself. And if I forget, Fall will come again. It will bring another battle, and surprise me with blue bugs.

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