Growing up in central New York State, I got to experience fall at its finest. Come late September, first one tree and then another would start a spectacular transformation and put aside its summer dress for a fall cloak of color. Hues of yellow and gold, red and burgundy slowly appeared on trees up and down the streets.
By early to mid-October, the countryside was ablaze. Hills looked like an oil painting where the artist lost his paint from the blue and green side of the palette. All that was left were the warm tones of autumn. It was a magical time of the year when Mother Nature took out her special wand and slowly drew it over the hillsides and trees morphed from a field of green to a tapestry of red and gold.
In 1982, I moved to the west coast, first the San Francisco bay area for three years and then Seattle, the city I’ve called home for the past 25 years. Living in California during the fall was like being inside a vacation brochure. Palm trees lined the street that went into campus. While it wasn’t quite L.A.-Santa-in-swim-trunks, it sure didn’t feel like the beginning of the sweater season I knew and loved growing up near Syracuse, New York.
One of the reasons I moved north to Washington State in 1985 was that on cloudy days (and there are plenty of them) when you couldn’t really see the mountains, the roll of the hillsides and the mix of deciduous trees almost felt like the towns of my youth. Still, in my mind, the northwest didn’t hold a candle to the northeast when it came to fall color. I would point to a maple tree on the side of the road and say wistfully: “See that tree over there. Well, imagine hillsides covered in color.” It became my mantra and Seattle friends who knew me well would recite the second line moments after I launched into the first.
The past few years though, I’ve begun to change my tune. Sure there are days when it seems like the scenery is a soggy mess of muted brown, but there are also days when the skies are clear and blue and the rainbow of colors in the trees is so electric your eyes almost hurt from looking directly at them. And while the hillsides and mountains have a preponderance of evergreens, as I drive up and down the streets there is crimson as far as the eye can see.
All hail fall. Though I’m sad to see the summer pass, autumn brings the world in a little closer: a hour spent tucked in a cozy chair reading a good book, coming inside to sip hot cider after an chilly afternoon’s walk, or snuggling close with Big Papa as we watch the trees weave a many-colored quilt to drop on the garden below.
October gave a party;
The leaves by hundreds came –
The Chestnuts, Oaks, and Maples,
And leaves of every name.
The Sunshine spread a carpet,
And everything was grand,
Miss Weather led the dancing,
Professor Wind the band.
~George Cooper, “October’s Party”