Fall Foliage in Vermont
My eyes are filled with color… ok, so now what?
I grew up in Palo Alto, California in the 1960s and 70s. In those days, orange and almond orchards could still be found around Sunnyvale and San Jose. Silicon Valley was not yet a thing. Hippies handed out flowers on the El Camino Real. With three hundred days of sunshine a year, and temperatures in the 70’s, by all accounts the place was paradise. But who is aware of paradise when they’re twelve years old? I think as I became a teenager I went on a rampage against sameness. That’s predictably biological, right?
I recall one winter, I was probably nine or ten, the family went to Lake Tahoe and I saw snow for the first time. I freaked out with the sort of joy that one feels when beholding the miracle of one’s first snow. I told myself in no uncertain terms that I would live somewhere where snow fell in the winter. Fast forward to my early twenties when I drove across the country for the first time. I landed in Western Massachusetts. Come that fall and witnessing the leaves changing color, I knew I had found a home. Finally, a place that reflected how I felt on the inside.
That first fall in New England I sent boxes of leaves to friends in Oregon and California. I had no idea that by the time they arrived the leaves would have lost all their color. One of my first jobs was to drive a delivery van from Northampton to New Haven, up and down I-91. Three days a week I got to witness the leaves changing in all their glory from my driver’s seat. Who’d a thunk an interstate corridor could be so friggin’ beautiful! Mile after mile after mile of just… trees!
There simply isn’t an adequate way to describe what the fall colors look like at peak foliage. It’s easy to stand along the roadside mute and dumbfounded. My eyes are filled with color… ok, so now what? The scarlet sumac, the purple ash, golden sugar maples, burgundy red maples, lemon-lime poplar and birch, delicate tamarack and white pine needles that paint the road like gold dust - all of it interacting together like an insanely beautiful collage. The late, burnt and brittle oak leaves that hang on well into stick season.
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There are times when the trees appear illuminated from within - ignited with an unearthly glow. The sun hits the hills just so and the entire landscape explodes with life and vibrates beyond all things. Where just weeks ago the forest stood, a uniformly green photosynthesis machine, respirating and storing carbon by the ton. Now, in the waning sunlight as the chlorophyll breaks down, each tree reveals its own unique personality and takes its place in the chorus that sings out of the forest.
I think it is in the simple beholding of fall foliage that is more to the point. How it’s more a reflection of the viewer in the moment of the viewing. How it will still the mind, deepen one’s breath, and bring one into the moment. How it’s a gift for just showing up and looking around and being willing to feel joy in the colors. Because it’s right there. And we’re alive to witness and receive it.