My first memory of dry leaves in winter is from a walk in the woods around Khajiyar when I was four.
I was holding Baba's hand - I probably had to reach up for it, his arm hanging down, mine reaching up higher than my head. The woods were shaded brown and ochre, and peaceful, my first memory of communing with nature. The leaves and pine needles, yellow and crumbling, rustled and crackled and crunched under our feet with a satisfying scrtsssstchhhhhh sound as we walked. I remember - I still remember - that momentous feeling - the feeling you get when something wonderful happens, or is about to, or when something touches and awes you, even when you have little comprehension of what it is. "Pa tule h(n)ato", Baba told me. I used to drag my feet (still do, sometimes) and he was trying to break me of the habit. I breathed in the smell of pine - pine cones and broken pine needles lying everywhere. Occasionally, sunlight pierced through to the ground, dappling it in shade and shadow. We crossed felled logs, Baba striding casually over them, me scrambling.
Where was everyone else? Ma, and Dada, and Didi, and Bui? I know they were all on this trip, but for those minutes, I have no recollection of where they were. All that existed was the wonder of a wood - an actual wood - and the smell, and the cool air, and the crackling leaves, and holding onto my father's hand.
Why am I suddenly thinking of this? Well, I suppose, because the leaves are lying thick on the ground, and gusting across the street and onto my balcony. Because the smell of pine is almost overpowering in some places. And because, for some reason, my memories are suddenly emerging from long-ago places and dusting themselves off and creeping towards the sunlight.
On days when my mind is crowded with long-ago-and-far-away thoughts, I sometimes wonder why we don't all implode under the weight of every moment we've lived through, every conversation and touch and smile we've shared, every story intertwined with our lives, every rare, wondrous moment when we've suddenly stared at the sky and felt the thrill, the sheer random luck, of being alive, here and now.