It happens every year. And every year I marvel at it as if seeing it for the first time. The colors of autumn. So many things in nature amaze me time and time again: the tides, the rising and setting of the sun and the moon in all their myriad guises, the silence of a nighttime snowfall. But the brilliant colors of fall occupy a special place in my psyche. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a September baby and hence partial to the season or because of the associations, but there you have it.
The deep, almost winey reds remind me of falls in Middlebury, Vermont during college. Even as students who took many things for granted, we never did the crisp seasonal colors. The range that far north was deep and vast but known as it is for maple trees and the syrup therefrom, the bright bursts of New England crimson that I see driving around now always take me back to those years. I relish that invigorating chill in the air, the omnipresent scent of fireplace smoke, and the ritual taking out of boots and sweaters and putting away of flip flops and tank tops.
The orange and yellow make me think of my mom. She, also a September child, relished the coming of fall and its foliage too. As a retired preschool teacher, she’d collect fallen leaves covering the color spectrum and use them to make craft projects with my sons and my sister’s daughters when they were young. When she moved full time to Florida, she’d lament the constancy of the green down there, so I would collect leaves as she did for my children. I’d either press them in wax paper or adhere them to cardboard with clear shelving paper every year and mail her an array. She put them on her refrigerator like she did the art we brought home to her when we were schoolchildren.
The yellow ginkgo leaves were her favorite, so I’d check every time I’d go in to the Westport Public Library, where those trees gracefully adorn the entrance. I’m sure anyone who saw me scavenging on the ground for the perfectly shaped and colored leaves thought me a little strange, but that was a perfectly acceptable price to pay for making my mother smile.
She’s gone almost two years now, and I still think about collecting, collating, and sending my creations to her. My boys now live far away, and while they both have access to foliage, this year I will gather ginkgo leaves at the library entrance and carefully attach them to index cards, and mail them to my boys. I hope they make them smile as much as they did my mom. I know that keeping the tradition alive will make me smile.
As do the Technicolor trees this time of year, exploding in their last hurrah of hues before they fall, letting their trunks hunker down for winter to start the whole cycle again come spring.