Friday, January 13, 2012

The Magic of Fall Colors

I San Francisco there is no real fall color. The mild wet climate will sometimes allow half of the leaves on a tree to turn a mottled brown, half of these may fall off, the others will cling to life until the spring sun revives them and returns them to their former verdant state. There are certain trees that exhibit moments of drama. In the backyard of an ex boyfriends neighbor stood a 6 foot tall poinsettia. In winter, shielded from the ambient light of the street, it's leaves would transform into their well known Christmas red. In spring the cherry trees in the Japanese s gardens of Golden Gate Park produces a week long spectacle of fluffy, delicate blossoms. A short distance form the city are the famed California Redwoods. Their towering majesty and great age can make one feel tiny and insignificant by comparison. In the Oakland hills the scent of eucalyptus fills the air from the groves growing there. While not native, they were transplanted from Australia, they seem at home on their sun drenched slopes.

At the age of 27 I moved to Chicago, and, after going through my first, unpredictable spring, common in the Midwest. And sweating through my first blazing summer with it's occasional, spectacular lightening and thunder storms, also common in the Midwest, I experienced my first Midwestern fall. At the time, I had not the money or means to travel far from the city. Chicago was not as well forested as it is now, thanks to a  massive tree planting campaign during the tenure of Mayor Daley the city today boasts a lush shady landscape, the leaves turning from summer green to their myriad of colors was magic to me and remains so to this day.

After several financially tumultuous years my fortunes turned and I was able to venture to other areas and broaden my fall vision. The colors of the eastern seaboard, from the pictures and descriptions I have seen and heard are vibrant due to a profusion of maples and other trees which produce bright fall hues. The autumn pallet of the Midwest, by comparison, is soft and muted, almost as if it was created by a French impressionist. Various shades of yellow and brown mix with bright orange mimicking the gourds and pumpkins stacked outside the farms along the winding country roads of Michigan and Wisconsin.

A large forest covers much of Michigan, sweeping up the shoreline of it's namesake lake. In the forest, scattered along the shore, you come across small victorian harbor towns which seem to be untouched by time. As you approach each one, your first sight are the church steeples rising above the thick tapestry of the tree canopy. Small streets lined with modest vintage homes give way to picturesque squares and tiny business districts. Churches are large, venerable, solid structures of stone and intricate stained glass. Equally solid, almost formidable gothic courthouses dominate the downtown areas of county seats. Grand, gingerbread laden homes have been converted to Bed and Breakfasts to accommodate the weekend visitors enjoying the warmth and nostalgia of the tree shaded streets.

In rural areas farmstands vend freshly harvested produce. Hay bales in the yards of farmhouses entice children to romp and adults to take in the seasonal scents and fresh air of the countryside as the varied colored leaves rustle in the autumn breeze.

Each year, we are treated to one last, warm, sweet, sunkissed moment before the leaves fall and the trees begin their winterlong nap.

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