We wouldn’t love autumn so much if the leaves didn’t turn, but screamed for three weeks — then fell off all at once.
Granted, the day they stopped screaming would be nice, and it would be a sure sign winter had begun. People would bet on the day the screaming would stop. We’d have learned long ago just to talk a bit louder.
This year’s leaves, we’re told, won’t be so vivid. Too much rain, but that’s good; the farmers need it, as we like to say to flaunt our connection to the People of the Soil. Actually, they don’t, but we feel good saying it: “I’m the sort of person who has the farmers in mind.”
Anyway, you need dry weather to get good colors, and we’re told this year will disappoint. Drat, I guess, you say, but it’s not as if anyone really notices these things year to year.
Wrong! Why, just the other day I was thinking about 2007’s leaves.
Around 3 p.m. on Sept. 19th of that year, I detected a slight alteration in the hue of a yew, and I knew that the show was about to begin. In the next three days, the tips of the leaves on the birches began to look a tad wan, as I remarked to my neighbor, who is also named Tad Wan.
“What do you think?” I said. “I’ll wager the oaks develop a russet border by the first of October, the ash have the light-amber tint of smokers’ teeth and the elms have gone from verdant to the slight pale green of a man who just realized the shrimp he had for lunch was bad.”
“No,” said Tad. “I think we’re looking at a year like 1986, when the sugar maples became fully involved before the honey maples, like two old married people who’ve had this argument a hundred times before.”
“By cracky,” I said, knocking my pipe against the fence post, “you might be right. But it would be nothing like the leaves of ought-six. Remember? The elms didn’t turn until 6:37 p.m. on Oct. 24th, and their brilliant green was a stunning counterpoint to the vistas of brown and yellow.”
“Ought-seven,” Tad said, reproachfully.
“Ought-six,” I said, knocking my pipe against his head.
Perhaps there are people like that. Most of us have three phases: 1. Oh, the leaves are starting to turn. Pretty! 2. Hmm, they’re all brown. 3. Well, they’re gone. In a week it’ll be dark at 4:54 p.m. Why do I live here?
Because it’ll get green again. That’s why. But right now, that’s a long ways away. One of our ornamental firs decided to die last week, and I yelled at it: “You’re supposed to represent hope through the monochromatic months, man.”
Hey, if the trees aren’t going to scream, someone has to.