Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes not, from the colors over and around me autumn has reached the tipping point. No matter how many warm days or intervals we get in the near future, no matter how hot they may be, processes are irremediably set and the leaves will now turn, fall off, and await longer periods of sunlight. That’s why people who are fond of metaphors worry about things like when such a point of no return would be reached for global warming or social instability.
I admit to being a little too attached to words and logic and metaphors myself, too quick to decide something is like something totally dissimilar. Language can be great fun, imagination can fly beyond the bounds of reality. But, of course, nothing is really like anything else. The processes of autumn are exactly that, the human-caused atmospheric changes something entirely different, and the only reason we are reasonably sure of what will happen next in autumn is because we have been through it before.
This is the most dramatic of season changes. There are moments, like this, where everything is summery calm and idyllic, which stretch for hours or days. Suddenly there will be a biting wind, a driving rain, a bank of deep purple clouds from the north. A few days later, warm again. Such times in spring are not quite so jarring, simply because the calm interludes reveal a landscape that continues to be primarily barren and bleak. This month, for romantics anyway, is all about loss.
The leaves are truly cascading and swirling. Around here, they never “come tumbling down in September.” Later October is the beginning and early November the overwhelming crescendo, when rakes and blowers can scarcely keep up, especially for neighbors who expect their lawn to look like a green living room carpet. I still like kicking my way through piles of them, reverting to childhood joys.
Some of these berries will last through most of the winter. The expiration date on the leaves arrives much sooner. Especially along this shoreline, exposed to pure blasts of north wind through the inlet from the Sound, Connecticut, and further westward. Once again, my imagination runs far ahead of reality, anticipating what will be instead of appreciating what is.
I think ourselves extremely fortunate that our consciousness always weaves in connections throughout time and space and imagination. The world in any moment is infinitely rich, simply in instantaneous sensations, but the real glory of humanity is the enchanting web of depth that we can cast everywhere, on everything, all the time. In other words, it is wonderful to add on the knowledge that summer is just past, winter is just to come, and that there are such things as westward winds and the immense lands where they originate.
Along the salt water, not many trees deliver the flaming oranges and scarlets you expect in, say, New Hampshire glens. Instead, it is a masterful blend of subtle yellow and brown hues. You need to appreciate them in a different way.
As I frequently do, I make an analogy to people. Some are brilliant and showy, but many of us are simply mellow brown and gold. Learning to accept what we are, and not wishing to be a sugar maple in the mountains when you are just an oak on the harbor, is part of maturity.