Listener Essay - Into November
Deb Smith is an Associate Professor at Empire State College. She lives in Albany and often drives across Vermont and western Massachusetts.
November can be a season dominated by subdued shades of gray and brown across the land. There are times when (dare I say it?) the month of November begs for the forgiving beauty of the first flakes of snow. To my surprise though, this year’s autumn color continued from October right into November.
From my front porch, trees surrounding my house were a stunning gold. Looking upward through the sugar maples was like being lost in a cascade of blonde hair. The Chinese maple a block over from my home was as red as barn paint. Up the boulevard, even as the leaves grow fewer and fewer, trees still carry two or three colors on each branch: honey yellow, hints of ruby red; bright orange. Yesterday I walked past a young maple with light red leaves—so light, the tree was a muted pink when you stepped back and looked at it in full.
In the Northeast, autumn is our most beautiful season, the time I recommend to friends who want to come and visit. Yes, summer is fun, there’s lots of winter activities and spring is welcome when it finally arrives. But they don’t hold a candle to the beauty that sweeps through our part of the world in autumn.
Like an artist using up all the paints they have, swaths of brilliant color cover the land—so vibrant and alive, you can pick out each individual tree on the mountainside. Evergreens provide a distinct counterpoint; deep pine green contrasting with the burgundy, ochre, scarlet and burnt orange of deciduous trees against an azure sky. As the light slants and fades into evening, the leaves almost seem to glow.
Without pounding rain and wind, the foliage remains on the trees. This suits me perfectly. In the morning when I open my bedroom window, the golden brightness of the maple leaves is more brilliant than sunshine. Just walking around our neighborhood becomes a delight. Out the back driveway or down the front path, heaps of fallen leaves crunch beneath my feet. What’s more delightful in autumn than marching your way through piles of fallen leaves, sending up small gusts of color as you walk?
Some leaves beg to be carried inside for their gorgeousness alone. I always collect the brighter ones, foolishly hoping they’ll keep their jaw-dropping colors. As they dry from supple to crispy, inside a book or beneath the glass of my coffee table, their colors darken. I can never find a way to save them.
In autumn change continues to happen. Over the course of several days, one golden maple leaf after another releases to twirl silently to the ground. When all these leaves finally fall, the trees await winter with branches like lace. The prolonged joy of autumn is complete.
On Thanksgiving I’ll look back on what I’m grateful for and include this, my favorite season. I’ll hope that next year—like this year—autumn will last and last, from October into November.