October 2015. Now that late summer heat has broken, our big-leaf maple drops leaves bigger than Franz Liszt’s hands. I finish the first of the half-dozen rain gutter cleanings that will be needed before the leaves are all finally down, each cleaning preceding the promise of a storm. An hour’s drive away, the first rain of the month has arrived and is moving this way. Calling from Berkeley, my friend Lillian says, “Hearing the rain is thrilling. Just the sound of it is so great, and some of our plants that were just hanging on might live.”
In Paul’s guitar class, we’ve been playing Autumn Leaves. In the first measures, the melody falls, only to climb in the bridge and fall again. It’s a little like cleaning leaves from the gutters before each storm: the leaves have fallen from the tree; we clear them out to get the gutters ready; more fall. Life imitates art imitates life.
Paul is the on-the-ground man receiving the buckets of leaves I lower from the roof. Waiting for him to empty the bucket, I try on an Elton John/Bernie Taupin moment. I sit on the roof, not kicking at the moss because there’s none to kick, singing Your Song and thinking of a high-school friend who told me he found the song insipid. Appalled, I replied that it was amazing and would become a classic. Recently he got back in touch to say, “You were right.”
Autumn Leaves is a classic, too–melodic, fun for soloing, full of great chords, somber but beautiful. When I’m done humming Your Song, and I’m down from the roof, I’m back to contemplating the II-V-I progressions of Joseph Kosma, composer of Autumn Leaves.
The rain on its way from Berkeley never does arrive. For the moment, though, we’re ready–gutters, rooftop songs, and all.
Sign up here to follow my blog. Engage with any posts that intrigue you. You can also sign up for my seasonal postcard if you’d like to receive short, occasional updates on readings and classes. I’d love to see you at any event, any time, and to hear how your own creative life is going.