"Listen," said Jim.
We were an hour into a hike in Norvin Green State Forest. One we'd never done before. The trail's incessant downward slope had just begun to ease, and the dense woods opened on either side. The forest floor was blanketed in gold, fallen leaves covering every surface as far as we could see.
We stopped walking. In the quiet, I heard a stream gurgling off to the right. Nothing more.
"Let's see if we can hear the leaves falling," said Jim. We looked around. In the wide expanse, a dozen or so papery-brown oak leaves drifted down from high up in the almost-bare branches. Lazily at first, then gaining a sense of urgency as they got closer to the ground. As if eager to join their predecessors.
At first I heard nothing. Then, just off to our left, a golden maple leaf landed. With a sound tough to put into words. Like the whisper of snowflakes falling in the dark. Or the hush of the first raindrops that herald a summer storm. Or a breath, exhaled so softly it can only be heard in a silent room.
A breeze swept through the treetops and sent several dozen leaves showering down. The air filled with the faint rustle of their journey to earth. As they came to rest, barely disturbing their brothers and sisters and cousins, they became invisible. Stitched instantly by hidden hands into autumn's colorful quilt. Richly cushioning our boots as we resumed our walk.