For a supposedly rational guy, I have my share of mystic habits. I will, presented with the opportunity—a clear night sky—wish upon a star. Or, after chicken, break a wishbone or, after a Chinese meal, not only read the fortune cookie fortune, which could be written off to social pressure but, if it seems propitious, also tuck it away for future private contemplation.
And those are the more mainstream occult rituals; I have a few kabalistic quirks that I assume are unique to myself. For instance, in the autumn, I like to catch a leaf during its transit from the tree to the ground. Meaning, while in the air—just scooping off the earth won't do.
Achieving this feat somehow is "good luck." I have no idea how long I have been doing it or when the tic started. It seems an artifact from a solitary boyhood spent wandering around the de-populated but treed streets of Berea, Ohio in the early 1970s.
Grabbing a leaf in flight is more difficult than it sounds—leaves are asymmetrical, and twist and jink their way through the air, falling as if avoiding your grip.
Actually, "falling" is too passive a word to describe what happens to leaves in autum. Despite the season's common name "Fall," gravity isn't pulling the leaves down, nor is wind pulling the leaves off. Rather the trees are flinging them away, using special cells located where the leaf stem meets the branch called "abscission" cells, whose name shares the same root as "scissors" and which perform the same function: cutting away the dead, no longer productive leaves so as not to sap scarce winter resources until new ones can grow in the spring.
Whether we consider them falling or being tossed away, leaves were fluttering down in abundance Wednesday morning. Returning from my walk with Kitty, I noticed the cimmaron ash that I planted 17 years ago and has now attained a 40-foot height thanks to religious applications of expensive anti-ash borer elixir, was dropping its leaves at a prodigious rate. They fell like rain, in bunches. I hurried over and ...
You know, the fall vs. cut duality is also echoed in the type of the tree: "decidious," meaning trees whose leaves fall, a word whose Latin root, cadere, to fall, is very close to cædere, which means to cut, and is the root of "decide," harkening back to when making a determination was equated to cutting through the knot of a problem. (It's a shame it wasn't the other way around, because the "æ" in cædere is a dipthong called an ash, which would be fitting to my tree and I better stop now).
Where were we? Ah yes, leaves, from my as-yet-unkilled ash, raining down. So much that they made noise. I positioned myself under the tree and, with golden oval ash leaves practically pelting me, raised my hands up, fingers spread, Kitty's leash looped around one wrist. The first three or four eluded me, but I managed to catch one, if "catch" isn't taking too much credit—it veered into my open hand and I closed my fist around it and snatched the thing.
Good luck achieved, I released the leaf to join its friends and headed inside to breakfast, though not before shooting a brief video to document the phenomenon.