During my afternoon walk, I pass beside a large field of wild grasses. At this time of year, the field is a mixture of grey and tan and brown. The field has no trees, save for a single crab-apple that stands at one edge of the field. Its leaves have now all fallen. A nearly perfect circle of gold, orange, and red lies on the ground beneath the tree's empty branches.
Late in November, on a single night
Not even near to freezing, the ginkgo trees
That stand along the walk drop all their leaves
In one consent, and neither to rain nor to wind
But as though to time alone: the golden and green
Leaves litter the lawn today, that yesterday
Had spread aloft their fluttering fans of light.
What signal from the stars? What senses took it in?
What in those wooden motives so decided
To strike their leaves, to down their leaves,
Rebellion or surrender? and if this
Can happen thus, what race shall be exempt?
What use to learn the lessons taught by time,
If a star at any time may tell us: Now.
Howard Nemerov, The Western Approaches (1975).
Watching the crab-apple gradually lose its leaves each year is always a sad experience. And seeing the circle that surrounds the empty tree in November comes as a sort of annual soft exclamation of finality, something like the "now" that closes Nemerov's poem.
Ah, but in Spring the crab-apple blossoms will be lovely.