On that clear November afternoon the autumn sunlight held the last hint of summer.
As he stood on the lawn, rake in hand, the day changed with the wind. When the breeze coming off the mountain stiffened he could smell snow and his fingers and cheeks burned with the cold. When the wind was still and no cloud blocked the low sun, the radiance on his back warmed him till he almost shucked his jacket. Then the wind would come again.
As the day shortened and the shadows lengthened across the wide lawn and the street and the lawn beyond he saw light in the windows of the houses he had known for almost all of his life. They had all changed owners of course, most of them several times, but in the last of the day, in this the last of the autumn, he let his mind wander back to those days long ago, when raking the leaves was something of a treat. It was work, real work, for one thing, and thus being allowed or even ordered to do it placed one in the adult world. But there was more to it than that. There was the scent of the crisp leaves, all yellow and red and brown, that whispered of the timelessness of creation and of inevitable change and cleansing and even then carried him away in his imagination to days long before when horses and cattle grazed on this very hill and the river just below teemed with every species of coarse fish and they traveled in schools up the green river in the cool of November to the shallow shoals where their fins sliced the surface of the water and the whole shoal shook with their determined shivers.
He thought of the great house below the tall white oaks and of the children who played there even in those earliest of days when he had first been released from his own yard and he wandered, almost drunk with his freedom, down turns in the road that all looked different as he walked by himself. Different from how they looked, day by day, as he rode in his parents’ car.
The boys and girls then all knew as he did that they were involved in a ceremony. They saw that the whole world they then moved in was a garden. And that this day of freedom and fallen leaves would live forever in their memory and they spoke of it even then in almost formal terms repeating to each other of the facts of seasonal change that they had learned in school together and involving each other in their young speculation about who would be what in the years to come.