Someone recently voiced a repugnance to the use of the word “decay” to describe what happens to fall leaves. Yes, it can mean merely to rot, and for most organic matter, this isn’t a nice sensory image.
But this off-putting by the word’s use reminded me of something I had said in a passage called “Savoring Autumn” in Slow Road Home, in the hope that term could be redeemed from this rotten connection:
It is a mercy that leaves in their dying do not suffer the same putrescent decay as animal bodies.
…In a graveyard of leaves, Death is nostalgically fragrant.
This morning, in my mind-browse over coffee, I find that the word decay is just exactly right to describe what happens in autumn. Ah, word roots (and stems and trunks and leaves…)
Middle English decayen, from Old French decair, from Vulgar Latin *de-cadere : Latin de–, de- + Latin cadere, to fall.