Perhaps it says something about my own slovenly nature that I love the look of fallen, unraked leaves. Why bother to rake and carry away that which Nature herself is so intent on scattering?

My first awareness of death is inextricably tangled with the memory of fallen leaves. M, the woman who lived next door, killed herself when I was around eight. Although I’d previously been to funeral homes when extended family had died, M’s was the first death I realized: one day she was there in her apartment bordering my parents’ yard, and the next she wasn’t, never to return.

There was and is a mature maple in the yard between what was my parents’ home and what was M’s apartment. In the fall, M and her boyfriend would rake its leaves into huge piles; a handful of childhood friends and I would jump in these piles or, when tired, bury ourselves in the scent of autumn before carefully arranging leaves into shallow lines and rows, the demarcations of an imaginary playhouse. I loved those ephemeral homes with their ragged lines: I remember dreaming in imaginary rooms with grass for carpet and scattering leaves for walls.

M and her boyfriend used to scold us children for scattering their carefully raked piles; they didn’t see the art nor the intention of our leaf-lined floorplans. And yet weekend after weekend, M and her boyfriend raked those leaves, never bagging and carrying them away but leaving them in soft, inviting piles. What did they expect of eight-year-olds? Were the piles designed to tempt us, to make us grapple for the first time in our young lives with the simple imperative Do Not?

Eve was tempted by fruit, and I was tempted by leaves; we both fell amongst the fallen, both apples and leaves ripening in fall. I assumed, as children do, that M’s death was my fault: surely she killed herself because I’d buried myself in her leaves, strewing and scattering them according to my dreams rather than hers. Today, I still think of death and its imperatives when I see unraked leaves tempting me with their papery touch and earthy scent. Was Eve similarly haunted by the tart, forbidden sweetness of apple on her tongue?