Fall has arrived. School is in session and there is a chill in the air. Families flock to apple orchards and pumpkin patches. The lush green of the woods has been replaced by vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds. The changing colors of the leaves announce the season more clearly than any date on a calendar ever could. The background of any outdoor picture immediately gives away the season, while tourists line the sides of roads eager to document the beauty of the leaves. You won’t see these colors in Winter, Spring or Summer.
In our old town the Fall Foliage Festival was the event that was anticipated all year. Committees worked for months trying to get the details just right. People traveled from all around New England and beyond just for this small town festival celebrating the changing colors of leaves. I never really understood leaf peepers. The parking lots at our local Foliage Festival always seemed to be filled with more out of state than in-state plates. Sure it was a fun time for local families, but it was just a small town festival. I couldn’t imagine driving hours just to attend that festival.
There were two real reasons why people made the trip. For some, it was to enjoy the Norman Rockwell nature of some quaint New Hampshire town. Except, with that many people jammed into such a small town for a weekend, it wasn’t all that quaint. The cute, charming little town could hardly be enjoyed when it felt like you couldn’t even stretch your arms without hitting someone. The real reason most people made that trip was to admire the colors of the leaves. That’s the reason I really didn’t understand. The leaves were pretty, yes, but they weren’t worth spending hours in the car to see.
This year, we’ve moved almost 100 miles north of that small town festival. I had never seen Fall this far north before, and I finally get it. The colors up here are more vibrant, the scenic vistas more stunning, than anything that I have ever seen before. Driving around, taking a walk, or even looking out the window, these leaves take my breath away. The normally beautiful mountains are even more spectacular when painted with color. Now that I have witnessed this amazing sight, I understand why someone would drive for hours, or even days, just to see it. The autumnal beauty speaks to my soul in a way that I never knew possible. I feel simultaneously inspired and at peace, amazed and overwhelmed by leaves. Now that I know it, I hope to never miss it again. I have no intentions of ever moving away from this wonderful town where I have set down roots. However, if I do one day find myself living away from here, I will make whatever length of trip is necessary to see this spectacle again.
There is no town-wide festival celebrating foliage up here, but one isn’t needed. The trees are putting on a festival of their own. Up and down mountains, along roadsides, and through the forest, each tree is heralding autumn in their own bright and colorful way.
Each tree changes color in its own time, while people make elaborate guesses about when they will reach “peak” color. One by one, the trees begin to synchronize. First we catch glimpses of individual leaves changing color, eventually it turns into a sea of color that cannot be missed, even by the least observant. All different colors, working together to paint a beautiful masterpiece and welcome Fall. As the green chlorophyll inside the leaves begins to fade, the leaves allow us to glimpse their true colors. Some red, some pink, some orange and yellow. Every leaf pops with its own true color.
The leaves set the stage for this naturally occurring festival, the people follow. Even without an officially organized festival to draw them here, the cars come streaming through the mountain notches. Cars bearing plates from all over, bring passengers here to admire the foliage. Our towns buzz with energy as these leaf peepers fill our stores and restaurants bringing business, happiness and laughter. It is a more peaceful festival than that crowded small town festival. We have entire mountains and forests to share with one another and everyone finds their own place to go to soak in the beauty. It is a festival of color and inspiration, and it will sing to your soul if you are willing to listen.
Shared to Nature Notes