This is the time of year when you have this conversation with yourself:
“I should go north and see the leaves.”
Later, “I’m probably too late.”
Still later, “Well, I’ve seen leaves before.”
Finally, “I wish I’d seen the leaves.”
This is also the time of year when I have this conversation with myself: “Did I write this column last year?”
OK, maybe neither one of us has that exact conversation. But this is the time of the year when we decide that losing sun and heat in exchange for pretty trees is a fair trade. “Let’s go north to observe the shifts in hue! It’s better up there. Duluth has a big knob that turns up the saturation.”
Then you get busy around home, and you remind yourself that the change in color moves from north downward, so it’ll get here eventually. It doesn’t move fast — it’s not as if you’re heading up I-35 and the color just whizzes past in the other direction. “Aw, shoot. There it goes. Well, take the next exit and turn around, maybe we can catch up.”
I went to the Department of Natural Resources online Fall Color Finder to check the map to see when peak leaf-watching hits where and was presented with a pop-up that gave me the opportunity to sign up for text or e-mail notifications about the colors. This is the modern world: Your phone buzzes in a meeting, you sneak a peek, the text says, “The sugar maples are exploding at Hinkley,” and you are out the door and on the road in five minutes flat.
The DNR’s website also tells us when the grasses will be changing. That means that in addition to feeling like we’re missing out on the leaves, now we can be missing out on the grasses, too.
From the website: “Yellow sunflowers and goldenrod, purple blazing star, New England aster, and Joe-Pye weed” will be changing.
I’ll take their word for it. I am not astute in the ways of the wild; goldenrod, to me, is the color of the paper in a sheaf of carbon copies. Purple blazing star? They could have said “Puce Zither Asteroids” and I’d be just as informed.
“New England asters” sounds like the way you’d describe a rich old family: “They’re Asters, you know, the New England Asters.” The plant also is known as the “hairy Michaelmas-daisy,” which is not something you’d advertise to attract tourists because Hairy Michael Mass sounds like a guy in the fitness club shower who needs his back waxed.
And as for Joe-Pye weed, it suggests that there was a fellow whose property was remarkably unkempt.
Going somewhere to see grass change color is not high on my to-do list. I can stay right at home and do that in the summer when I forget to water.
Now, if it all the leaves and grasses changed color at once, that would be different. It would rank up there with the hullabaloo that forms around an eclipse. We’d build bleachers for that. Wouldn’t that be great? Sitting with an excited crowd, counting down like New Year’s Eve, waiting for the moment when the leaves switch from green to brilliant red?
Except everyone would be watching it happen through their phones, and the view would be spoiled by a notification:
“Leaves are changing now!”