Thursday, October 31, 2013

Leaf Peeping and Leaping

Just a tinge of fall color in North Carolina.

Driving through the Smoky Mountains last week, I was surprised to see that the fall colors were not as vibrant as I had thought they would be. I am sure there were many disappointed tourists who had planned trips to the area for the express purpose of 'leaf peeping'. The Chamber of Commerce, or whoever is in charge of such things, should have been out with cans of spray paint adding color to the trees!

Here, we are having a late fall as well. Some of the trees have shrugged on sweaters of red, gold, and orange and some are still cloaked in summer's green.

This is what Jean Hersey had to report on leaf happenings in October in New England in her book The Shape of a Year:

We forget from year to year how stirring fall colors can be. Annually we tell each other these are the very best we have ever had. And this year they really are! No one has any adjectives left. The scientific-minded speak of pigment and chlorophyll, the rest of us just surrender to our emotions.

The fragrance of burning leaves is another autumn delight. Their delicious rustle and the scent of their smoke invariably carry me back to the days when my father used to rake great piles to burn. Before he lit them my friends and I would burrow deep and hide ourselves in the slightly scratchy heaps. From here we would look out at the world through tiny odd-shaped chinks of light. My father would build several immense piles taller that he, and call us out when he was ready for the bonfires.  We'd stand beside him while three fires burned at once. He always did things in a grand manner -- never just one fire at a time. Enthralled and slightly awed we watched the blowing feathers of blue smoke circle heavenward, and now and then a great volcanic eruption would mushroom out, followed by a roar of flames as a new part of one of the heaps caught fire.

I recall such a scene from my own childhood only it was my grandfather who raked the leaves and set them alight to fill the air with that distinctive autumn smell. Now, of course, one can't burn leaves in the city anymore which is a shame as whole generations of children will never experience the delight of jumping into piles of leaves and the thrill of watching them burn. 

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