A mass of leaves

Here’s a drabble I wrote a while ago, using the prompt “A mass of leaves”

autumn-leaves

A platform has been set up in the woods, with a table upon it in the center.  Great care has been taken with the decorations and flourishes; it looks well appointed yet fastidious.

In front of the platform is a cleared space with lots of room.  Surrounded by trees and sunlight, the entire spot – including the altar and platform – gives out a sense of anticipation.

The breeze picks up; it’s chilly, but not as cold as it will be.  Leaves are gently blown off the trees; they swirl purposefully through the forest and arrive in the clearing in front of the altar.

As they drift to the ground, the leaves settle so they are side by side as much as possible.  More and more of them land there – dozens, then hundreds, then thousands.  There is room for them all.

Off to the side, a small, lowly sparrow sits at the bottom of a tree.  There is an area dug out in the “V” between the tree’s roots.  The bird wears a stole across its back which looks as if it’s part of a saddle – a very tiny saddle blanket, perhaps, but made of a soft, rich red cloth that has gold threads woven through it.

As if on a signal, the breeze stops and the leaves settle one final time.  The sparrow eyes the vast number of them in front of the platform.  They await her movement, the tiny bird steps that will take her to the front of the altar.

They have no eyes, the leaves, but they know when she moves.  They seem to curl forward very slightly, in anticipation.  The sparrow takes her first step and then hops, dignified – as dignified as hopping can be, but surely, very graceful – to the platform.

She sings a glorious song, so lovely the leaves immediately rest back in their places.  This is the last time they will be together before their age and the season bring their end.  The sparrow sings of their lifespan, the gifts the leaves have given the earth – shade, air, fragrance, homes for her winged brethren – and then, on a final note, she moves behind the altar.

The rest of the brief time, the sparrow thanks God for all the gifts He has bestowed, including a brief but fruitful life for the rich hues before her.  They were buds and then they were sprouts; they were green and then they became a riot of gold, orange, red and yellow.  Now, their brown edges revealed their end.  The cycle was over for another year.

The sparrow concludes the service, and the breeze picks up again.  Slowly but willingly, the leaves take off, riding in the wind. They scatter throughout the area and fall to the ground one last time, in their final resting place, awaiting snow.  They would sink into the dirt and return their life in a few years, to be absorbed again by the trees dominating the landscape.

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