The Fall Colors map has been released. As we go to press, most of the state is still below 10 percent fall colors, although northeastern Minnesota is starting to die -- er, turn a gorgeous burning hue that provides a glorious backdrop to the bittersweet pleasures of the season.

Or, in other words, die.

Don't get me wrong: I love fall. To say it's behind spring and summer in my list of favorite seasons is like saying Mozart is behind Beethoven in one's list of favorite composers.

We want a long fall; let the days be bright, the light be golden, the sun muster the gumption to blare out a few more times.

We rue the years when the fall says, "Look, I'm outta here. Winter's running ahead of schedule. You're on your own," then dumps its leaves with the shame of someone paying off a bill with pennies and leaves us facing the raw scrape of November without a single good memory.

You know, like the memory of going up to look at the fall colors. Every year I think: We should go look at colors. Maybe they came up with a new one. We invent new apples here in Minnesota; maybe they came up with a new fall color. Tuscan Beige. Singed Russet. They could have companies sponsor the name: Ripe Crimson, brought to you by Target! Burnt Umber, sponsored by Crayola!

Every year I see the maps and think: The woods of the north are ablaze with beauty, and here I sit looking at the weary, drained greens of the back-yard ash.

But then the colors come to us. The first tree in our yard to flower in spring is the first to yellow and shed. You hear the dry rustling mutter of cast-off leaves shooed down the street by the breeze, and you remember: It's only a matter of time.

Of course, the appearance of Halloween stuff two weeks ago at the Dollar Store was a reminder as well. That's how it all goes: Skeletons in the drugstore while you're still in shorts. It makes the time when pre-made cookies with pastel egg-shapes in the middle seem far, far away.

I love it all, but I'd give anything to hear one more cicada. Every year the last one says goodbye. Every year you miss the chance to wish him well. • 612-673-7858