HURRAH! IT'S FALL!
What's the happiest day of the year?
Many people might invariably says "Christmas!" or "The first day of vacation!" Children will protest, "It's the last day of school!"
For my part, it's the day we shut the air conditioner down for the season.
While I welcomed summer like those children when I was their age, the presence of summer was always a debatable joy. Sure there was no school from mid-June through Labor Day. And summer meant we were going somewhere on vacation, whether it was to visit an aunt in Massachusetts or partake of even greater joys in places like Williamsburg and Lake George and Quebec. I was always possessed of a wanderlust and late spring and early summer was always an agony of waiting for July 4th week (when they shut down the factory for two weeks where my dad worked) to arrive.
But summer had its downsides. Heat for one; growing up with no air conditioning, there are still memories of those breathless summer nights when Dad prowled the house in the wee hours of the morning, looking for some relief, and I lay feet aimed to the wall, hoping for a breeze from the two windows down at the foot of the bed. Sun was another: it gave me headaches. Worse was Mom's litany: go outside and get some fresh air (even in the 1960s she was still afraid I might get rickets; although how that might happen with all the milk I drank I'l never know). Why go out in the sun, sweat, and get a headache when it was much nicer to stretch out next to the fan and read a book? I was terrible at games anyway and the only thing that I did well was play tag, a pastime that, after age ten, was declassee among socially-conscious female classmates who considered it "babyish."
Worse, in the summer Rhode Island was invaded by tourists; all our favorite haunts on Sunday afternoon rides
Living in Georgia in the summer has its own set of problems: an overabundance stinging insects and smothering heat. We joke that sometimes the air is thick enough to see, or that it hits you in the face like a wet, steaming washrag, and movement is just to get from air-conditioned workplace to air-conditioned home to air-conditioned supermarket and then back again. I've said more than once that I spend summer half in hibernation, waiting for a livable climate. "Fall," as the old saw goes, "is a Southerner's reward for surviving summer."
Given all that, nothing can beat those equinotical winds!
Fall is like spring again without all the problems. Spring means glorious color in the Atlanta, due to an abundance of flowering trees, but it also means pollen and sneezing
Fall, if the conditions are right, means color as well, the high color of autumn leaves. While spring is white and reds and pinks and yellows, fall is scarlet and crimson, orange and flame color, saffron, even red-purples dotted with the pale trunks of white birches and the pure green of the fir trees. The breezes eddy and cool and the windows are thrown open again and bodies feel alive without the heat sapping their energy.
Autumn is also full of holidays, from Columbus Day, usually the "last hurrah" of weekend trips, but more importantly the time the leaves reach their peak in Northern New England, to Veteran's Day to Thanksgiving to those mysterious, anticipatory days before the winter holidays that lead into the winter solstice. It's leaves to be crunched when no one is looking, heady scents of a chill day, skies so blue they hurt, autumn harvest festivals with fat ripe apples and fair food, cleansing breezes, rainy weekend days just right for reading or sleeping.
"Crazy About Color"
From childhood I've been "a color junkie," whether it was something as everyday as the multicolor miracle of a 64 box of Crayolas to the wild rainbow extravaganza of Sunday night fireworks at the St. Mary's Church feast, or the multicolor hues and fragrant scents of the summer flower beds planted for my mom by my Uncle Guido to the fat C-7 multicolor lights on the tips of each branch of that year's Christmas tree. Little wonder then that fall, followed so closely by winter that they trod on one another's heels (I was as dotty about snow as I was about color), was my favorite season. Spring was pretty, with its forsythia yellow and tulip red, but it couldn't hold a candle to the other end of the year.
I also remember autumn as one of the rare times during the year I saw my dad "play." Oh, even my introverted father had a great time at our big, noisy Italian gatherings: weddings, showers, holiday celebrations. (My bemused best friend, speaking of her wedding, still comments about what a good time my dad hadhe even caught the garter!) But usually he was quiet unless a situation elicited some emotional response: the first sight of the Grand Canyon, a beautiful vista along the freeway, his favorite Disney attraction of all time, It's a Small World, first glimpsed at the 1964 New York World's Fair.
When I was tiny, autumn usually involved a trip to Roger Williams Park, where Dad and Mom would walk me, hand in hand through the Japanese garden, bright with scarlet maples, and the tree-shaded zoo. As I grew older, as soon as the trees became their most brilliant, we used to make a pilgrimage out to a certain open field across from the water purification plant at the Scituate Reservior. Not only was my small self fascinated by the big fountains of waters outside the waterworks, but lining the far edge of the field were maples, elms, oaks, and other trees, bright in their reds and oranges and yellows. Daddy and I would walk down to the edge of the wide expanse of mellowing grass, trailed by Mom, to gather leaves one by one and ooh and ahh over the yellow blending into orange and then into redand often play tag, chasing each other around the field. What I remember most about those excursions was laughterfrom the chase, from picking out the finest leaves for a bouquet, from anticipation of ice cream at Newport Creamery afterwards.
Once my mother went back to work when I was in junior high school, we had extra spending money for such things as vacations, so as I got older, we wandered farther afield for our leaf viewing (alas, the State of Rhode Island eventually fenced in our magic "playfield" at the reservoir). We eventually ended up doing the Columbus Day weekend jaunt so familiar to hundreds of New Englanders, the "ride to see the leaves" up to New Hampshire, with the inevitable stop at the State Liquor Store cheerfully situated on both the northbound and southbound sides of Interstate 93, to get the annual supply of alcohol before the Christmas holidays (brandy and vermouth to offer visiting uncles, and of course the essential gallon of hearty burgundy for a supply of wine biscuits). Judging by the traffic going in and out of both places, it was a annual stop for many folks.
The leaves never failed to delight. No matter how good the quality of the color around the Scituate Reservoir, the leaves of New Hampshire and Vermont always surpassed them. Indeed, there were some years they appeared to glow from within, since we seemed to encounter our share of cloudy days for the trek. Against a dark, dank drizzly sky, instead of conquered by the rain, the leaves were afire despite it, liquid gold and electric orange and startling scarlet. By the time Columbus Day weekend arrived, the rare white birches had already lost their leaves and their trunks were bright vertical snowy flashes in between the riotous deciduous trees and the gracious dark green of the firs.
During one of our summer trips to Lake George we had discovered a better route than the Mass Pike and the Northway (I-87): Interstate 93 to Route 4 across New Hampshire and thence to Vermont and finally New York. On the route was a lone shop on a hill called "Scotland by the Yard" (filled with the most marvelous woollen goods), Killington and Piko Peak (deserted in this season, although one particular wintry October we drove through a swirl of snowflakes), the picturesque village of Woodstock (driving through which I could only press my face against the glass of the car window and long to see since Daddy had a horror of what he called "tourist traps"), and our favorite place, Queechee Gorge, just over the Vermont border. Today there are outlet stores there; when we began going it there was only a small souvenir post hawking cheeses, maple products, and the inevitable cedar remembrances like statues of bears and business card holders and perpetual calendarsto this day the smell of cedar reminds me of souvenir shops.
Once walking Queechee Gorge ("Vermont's Grand Canyon"), you forgot the well-trafficked road, the rumbles of vehicles over the metal bridge, the sharp smell of spun sugar and ice cream from the shop. Five minutes from cars and trucks, there was almost a complete silence of a wooded path, with only the rustle of dried leaves underfoot, the rush of the water in the river below, and the scramble of squirrels to break it. Each tree was more vivid than the last, more shades of the basic color than you could imagine, the darkest of the scarlet trees even moving into the realm of purple.
One year, away from the prying eyes of parents, I left the path and entered the woods proper. Careful to set a landmark to return to (no need to become a statistic, after all), I entered a world of arching branches, fallen limbs, the scurrying of squirrels and chipmunks, the flash of birds winging overhead, and spent twenty minutes or so turned back in time, an explorer of the "forest primaeval," scuffing leaves, walking the ridge of fallen trees, hopping over brushwood, following a trail that perhaps was a deer'sthough more likely belonging to a human visitor like myselfbetween twists of scarlet sumac. High above the sky was blotted out by the tops of the trees and even the last of the road sounds vanished. I supposed it was cold, but I hardly felt it.
I couldn't stay too longthe words "worry" and "Mom" being synonymousbut I managed to drink in what memories I could. Today I can still close my eyes, see the treetops, the tilted rough brown-and-grey trunks of long-dead trees, the crooked pathway behind me, the joyous colors of the leaves and the brush.
Oddly, our efforts to proceed further west always seemed met with ill luck. The two times we tried to view the leaves at one of my favorite places in the world, Lake George, New York, it was rainy and cold. The sun did manage to struggle through on one trip and we have foggy, but colorful photos of the area from the top of Prospect Mountain (the park there then a new feature, the area having been closed for years after the last hotel on the summit burned down in the heyday of the resorts). Ironically, the most beautiful tree we saw, a brilliant scarlet maple whose vivid color nearly hurt our eyes on that gloomy day, was at a stolid, unimaginative little rest area, directly next to the rest rooms! (I hoped to break the "jinx" years later when my mother, husband, and I drove the familiar route once more; alas, it rained again, although for a second time on Prospect Mountain the sun shouldered its way through thick clouds to give him one shining, elusive view of the lake, a shimmering crystal blue surrounded by crimson and flame.)
The milkweed pods are breaking,
I wish three times, and watch them go
On such a day of singing blue
"Come, little leaves," said the wind one day,
Soon as the leaves heard the wind's loud call,
"Cricket, goodbye, we've been friends so long;
"Dear little lambs in your fleecy fold,
Dancing and whirling, the little leaves went;
The cold, late autumn weather seemed
The wind is whistling
Bright, solo leaf, now unpursued,
Fallen brightness, salient,
A moment cast of special un
Something told the wild geese
Leaves were green and stirring,
All the sagging orchards
Something told the wild geese
When autumn's brightly patterned quilt
October stores her sunny clothes,
She pauses by a peaceful pond
Alone, she hikes the woodland trails
Thank You, God, for autumn trees
Grace Strickler Dawson
Ho! for the leaves that eddy down,
Ho! for the rakes that young hands wield,
Ho! for the blue-gray smoke that curls
Fire! fire! upon the maple-bough
Come, let us hasten to the woods
Robert Louis Stevenson
In the other gardens
Pleasant summer over,
Sing a song of seasons!
When Jack wakes in the morning,
"For anyone who lives in the oak-and-maple area of New England, there is a perennial temptation to plunge into a purple sea of adjectives about October." . . . Hal Borland
"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower." . . . Albert Camus
“Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree.” . . . Emily Brontë
“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” . . . L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
“If a year was tucked inside of a clock, then autumn would be the magic hour." . . . Victoria Erickson
“Two sounds of autumn are unmistakable…the hurrying rustle of crisp leaves blown along the street…by a gusty wind, and the gabble of a flock of migrating geese.” . . . Hal Borland
"I can smell autumn dancing in the breeze. The sweet chill of pumpkin, and crisp sunburnt leaves." . . . Ann Drake
"Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons." . . . Jim Bishop
"October's poplars are flaming torches lighting the way to winter." . . . Nova S. Blair
"I can feel my spirits rise with every degree the temperature drops." . . . Katherine Swift, The Morville Year
"Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall." . . . F. Scott Fitzgerald
"Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting, and autumn a mosaic of them all." . . . Stanley Horowitz
"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the Earth seeking the successive autumns." . . . George Eliot
"I loved autumn, the season of the year that God seemed to have put there just for the beauty of it." . . . Lee Maynard
"Anyone who thinks fallen leaves are dead has never watched them dancing on a windy day." . . . Shira Tamir
"The tints of autumn...a mighty flower garden blossoming under the spell of the enchanter, frost." . . . John Greenleaf Whittier
"Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves, we have had our summer evenings, now for October eves." . . . Humbert Wolfe
Have you ever met Cicely Mary Barker's fairies?
These are some of her autumn imps; all of her fairies are painted on botanically accurate flora and the result is beautiful!
Look at the gorgeous autumn color of the plants the fairies sit on!
Visit The Flower Fairies site and see these images full size, and more of her art.
I have mixed a few of my own photographs here with some found on the internet.
When I am lonesome for the fall (which is practically all the year except for Christmas and winter),
surfing for autumn photos are always a quick pick-me-up!
|Moss Lake in the Adirondaks, from "Country" magazine. I have loved the Adirondaks with all my heart: not just Lake George Village (and its myriad miniature golf courses), but Lake Placid, and Fort Ticonderoga. I would love to have seen Ausable Chasm, bumper stickers for which you could not miss in the late 1960s and 1970s.|
|Autumn leaves in our area of Georgia usually end up being a muted affair, as the cold nights are far between, so insufficient in turning off the chlorophyll within the tree. However, we lucked out and had a brilliant fall in 2013; this was in front of my work building at the time.|
|In my favorite city, my favorite season. Boston Common. The Common becomes a beautiful wilderness in the autumn, and trees also burn bright over the burying ground and up on Copps Hill in the North End.|
|Before our vacations were curtailed by medical issues, we always took them in the autumn and headed for the best fall scenery we could find. This is from 2010, the big maple tree next to the Robert Frost farmhouse in Derry, NH.|
|Sadly, I've never made it up to Canada in the fall. I would have loved to have traveled this road! I would love to visit Canada again, having not been there since the mid-1970s. I recall the beauty of the view from the Citadel in Quebec City and the wonderful cherry orchards between the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and the lovely little town of Niagara-on-the-Lake.|
|As a devotee of history museums, I fell in love with Strawbery Banke at once. The homes in the "Puddle Dock" area have displays ranging from the 1700s all the way to the mid 1950s, including a World War II-era grocery store, and the home of Thomas Bailey Aldridge. This 2015 photograph of a brilliant maple tree doesn't do it justice. In Portsmouth, NH.|
|I am frankly envious of whoever took this photograph. I've never been in Lake George, NY, in the autumn when it wasn't raining! This is a view from Prospect Mountain, which was a new attraction when we went there in the 1970s. Previously it had been the site of a resort hotel that burned down several decades earlier; now it is a park.|
|A lovely autumn day along the Providence River, Providence, RI. One of the delights of my three and a half year employment at Trifari in East Providence, RI, was driving down the Veteran's Memorial Parkway twice a day and passing Bold Point Park and two different golf courses, all dotted with trees in riotous autumn color.|
|James and I were lucky to visit Old Sturbridge Village for the first time in the autumn of 2015. It was cool for walking, one could scuffle around in the leaves scattered to the dirt roads that led from building to building, and a hot lunch just hit the spot. This is the rebuilt sawmill at the foot of the millpond.td>|
|By the time we visited Michigan in 2013, the leaves had passed peak in most places, although the paths of Greenfield Village, Henry Ford's "living history village" in Dearborn, was still ably decorated by autumn. Here's another "road not taken" I would have loved to have traversed.|
|Another autumn photo of autumn Lake George on a sunny day. Both my attempts to see the area at peak were thwarted by dark clouds and heavy rain, once in the 70s, once again in the 90s. So: living vicariously through photography!|
|Both the times I traveled out west with my parents, we did so in July. I remember landscapes of wonder, but overlaid with heat and dust. Here's something more agreeable: autumn aspens in Colorado.|
|I've had this image saved for a long time. I imagine walking here, like I did that day in the woods so long ago at Queechee Gorge, on a nice day with the temperatures in the low 50s, kept snug in a fleece jacket and a knit hat, swinging my arms as I climb up each step, breathing chill air like I was sipping fine wine.|
Autumn "Lifesavors" *
» ...bright-eyed chipmunks with their cheeks full of goodies gathered for winter.
» ..."apple" trees: those trees that turn from green to red like a ripening apple.
» ...brightly colored trees playing ring-a-rosy around a reflective pond.
» ...green trees with only their tips turned to scarlet and gold.
» ...the faraway, sharp scent of burning leaves.
» ...a brisk breeze that showers you with colorful leaves.
» ...the golden glow of the air.
» ...white birch trees sketched against the fall leaves.
» ...woodsy roads lined with blazing bushes.
* With apologies to Reader's Digest
(travel via autumn leaf: click on the leaf button to go to the site)
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