Their earthbound journey began early this year, as did everything else, I noticed. Corn fields are already stripped, and my own tomatoes reached picking stage back in mid-July. Shortened days, the earth’s slight tilt, and drying southerly winds, leaching what little moisture the soil has managed to hold on to, combined to produce this premature dance.
The maples were the first to open the performance, their leaves pirouetting to the earth, a fitting curtain call to a summer spent in their rich green finery. Not to be too quickly outdone, though, they will end their days as a bright mosaic on the wilting grass and wooded paths, waiting to be joined later by the gold of birch, poplar and beech leaves. The oaks, mighty to the end, will be the last to fall, leaving behind their customary brown-clad retinue that insists on clinging to the branch well into winter and beyond.
I never tire of it, never grow weary of the yearly show. Beginning with a few forerunners, that poignantly fall to the earth, the extravaganza finally bursts into action when this quiet dirt lane becomes the final resting place of millions of leaves blown down by stronger winds. It’s a veritable leaf shower, and there is no stopping them then, bound as they are by the laws that govern deciduous trees in autumn.
The evergreens, too, experience a denouement of sorts each year, albeit sooner. For just a short time in June, pine trees don’t quite live up to their name as they briefly sport a blush of rust-colored needles that will eventually carpet the ground beneath them, making way for greener growth that will persist well into the following year. Hemlocks and firs follow suit as they rid themselves of old growth to make way for the new, an ancient process not unknown to us humans as well. Fall is an apt name for a season when so much of the natural world needs time to renew its hold on life.
Nature’s visual productions never disappoint. Each season has its piece de resistance, from the chartreuse yellows of the first birch leaves in May to the light shows when weather systems collide in august, and on to the autumnal waltz that sets the stage for yet another grand ballet. For the snowflakes, awaiting their wintry cues, are even now going through their paces in the vast back stage of the heavens.