Sun-tinged chill projects two shadows upon the asphalt road: One steadying the left elbow of the other, using a cane; save for its rhythmic tap, hush impregnates the afternoon. It feels like Advent, dormant and still waiting.

Varied brown remains of dried pin oaks and sycamores, empty pods from mimosa trees, and pine needles pattern each step with beauty. Blackened is the row of cone flowers, nearby, their heads raised in expectation; the same for the cluster of sedum, having lost their autumn lavenders.

In a neighbor’s yard, berries redden on Christmas holly shrubs. Aproning the base of their solitary ginkgo tree are buttery fan-shaped leaves. And next door, the naked limbs of a giant maple reveal two squirrel nests.

Only the Missouri Honeysuckle entwined in the chain-linked fence still holds some of its watery-green leaves; darker shades lay at the bottom, in varying stages of dismemberment. And nearby, a splattering of multi-colored leaves still droop from the viburnum shrub; its eventual bareness will give way to its former greening in spring.

As if this display is too much, tree sparrows make holiday like aerialists zinging beneath circus tents. Then, a solitary cardinal swoops to a feeder, its action caught in the lens of my companion.

Such impressions quiet the soul for prayer. Gladness follows in its wake.

Would that Advent’s barren beauty could remain longer …