Autumn in Minneapolis is filled with a certain kind of sensuality that pulls me into seasonal nostalgia. The liminal seasons in between the extremes of summer’s passion and winter’s contemplation. It’s a time of suspended softness and tender transition and preparation to go underground and to do so with multicolor rapture.
My earliest remembered ceremony into the sweetness of leaves was when I was 6 and my sister was 5 and my mom raked the whole yard up into large mounds of soft crunchiness. My mother is from Trinidad and met fall for the first time as a grown woman. She gathered and compiled the crispy abundance for hours. Multitudes like sand but not sand, uniqueness like snow but crisp and parchment.
My sister and I spent that afternoon tumbling and letting loose our wildness into the pile of arboreal confetti, tessellations scattered from trees that got more and more nude as it got more and more cold. We laid on the ground with our mama-made comforter beneath us and were warmed and loved Black girls in the crispness. We looked up at the branches of the trees that gave us their released abundance, and looked at the lines, like cracks against the sky.
The romance of leaves reminds me of other magic caves. I remember falling in lusty, adolescent love, against the autumnal backdrop of cerebral hip-hop and decaying industrial 1990s Minneapolis, with a soft-bodied and artsy mixed kid who did graffiti and made me mixtapes that I listened to until they fell apart in my boombox. We dressed the same in androgynous and secondhand Afro-centric clothes. I remember a make-out session that happened after we walked along abandoned train tracks that used to run a parallel vertebrae to Lake Street. He showed me the back of a truck where he had tagged my nickname, “juji.” It’s one of the most romantic gestures anyone has ever done for me. We walked until we found woods in the middle of our city. Lush floods of leaves becoming crispy ruby, copper and flame, carpeting our world as we tucked into each other breathing, loving each other’s brown selves.
The transformation of trees reveals all kinds of hidden selves. Since I was a kid, autumn was about renewal and mystery and that remains the same for me today. Maybe because of the phantom feelings of a new school year of prepared and hopeful possibility. Or the reckless ecstasy of unhinged saccharine and homemade masquerade that is Halloween in the hood that gave me permission to reimagine myself. This fall, I contemplate all of the ways I want to burrow inside myself in a new way and uncover something new and fearlessly itself.
As I grow older and with every year of life, I am able to pay attention to the rhythms of nature for their own perfection. Leaves die pretty and with finesse, a decadent unfurling into the other side of the veil. You just wanna lie underneath them and watch them do what they do, rainbow out colors of themselves as they sacrifice their nutrients for the roots of their parent tree. You look at trees in autumn and they remind you of bravery and grace towards death.
I wish everyone a gigantic mound of leaves to luxuriate in every fall. It’s a pure ecstatic ritual that does something to your insides. A leaf bath for rebirth.
Junauda Petrus-Nasah is a writer, pleasure activist, filmmaker and performance artist of Black-Caribbean descent, born on Dakota land.