New England really knows how to die.
I grew up in Texas where the leaves on the trees slowly, slowly, slowly change from green to boring brown, maybe with a tinge of yellow if you’re lucky. Summer sort of oozes into fall. There’s no big physical transition from one time of year to another; just a subtle dulling of the landscape as the season wanes.
Seeing autumn foliage explode in Massachusetts was initially like witnessing an event on another planet. Even after 25 years living here, every fall stuns and delights me. Just when I think I can’t be amazed by another transition from warm to cool, I find myself, mouth agape, wandering my neighborhood as if I’m viewing it for the first time. And it’s being shown in Technicolor.
Maples and elms and crap apple trees nearly burst from green into into ochres and burgundies as if set alight. Overnight the yard is swirling with fiery red and yellow leaves, piled by the wind into drifts against the house. They huddle against the street curbs, cover the flowerbeds like rich tapestries.
Every time a fresh gust of air blows across the sky, it is made visible by a rain of delicate orange leaves and heard by the whoosh through leafy branches. Let go, let go, the wind seems to say, and the trees abide. Dry leaves, oval and round and palm-shaped and spiky, skitter across the road, as if in a rush to get somewhere.
I wonder if ticker tape parades were inspired by this natural celebration. As if the heavens let go an enormous fistful of confetti, the whole word is smattered with colorful leaves. It’s a big lovely mess.
I know this display is a warning of what’s to come — New England winter, neither colorful nor gentle, will soon enough strip the landscape bare, leaving the trees shiveringly naked and the view will be monochrome. But for now, like a kid, I kick the crimson leaves as I walk the dogs, and look up to the bright blue sky full of incredible eye candy, rejoicing in the gorgeous way of dying that only this region seems to know.
It’s so punk rock, New England, with its attitude: burn out, don’t fade away.