A week or so ago the first of the maples were clearly changing colors. Maples seem to need more hours of daylight than most other trees. When day length is less than 14 hours, maples send their topmost leaves to sleep. This happens in the second week of August at Vermont latitudes. So by the end of August, there is a noticeable change in color. The Virginia creeper and many kinds of dogwood and viburnum are also preparing for winter sleep with a deep flush of red. And apples, crabapples, rowan and rose hips are brightening many front yards around my town. The birches and oaks are still resolutely green, working industriously away at creating those yummy sugar compounds for us all. But in another couple weeks, when day length drops below 12 hours, all the deciduous trees will follow the maple lead — for the most spectacular fall display in the world.
I did not know that North America was so singular — and Vermont so singular within North America — until quite recently. It seems that EuroAsian deciduous trees, even the maples on that continent, are short on the red pigment that so enlivens our autumns. Of course, oaks turn rusty, but it’s more brown, not the psychedelic swamp maple fuchsia nor the fire engine red of sugar maples. Most trees turn golden in the fall, like the afternoon light. But in northern New England, maples are everywhere. There are whole mountain faces covered in little but maple trees with their warm rainbow leaves setting the hills aflame. (Without the actual flames of the Western mountains.)
We’ve had tourists here since the relaxing of social isolation rules. It’s sort of scary actually to have a car with out of state license plates pull up in front of the garden center and disgorge what seems like a dozen kids. But the unvaccinated are largely back in school now (with varying degrees of success), so we have a bit of a breather between the summer people and the autumn weekenders. But the changing leaves will likely bring hundreds of tourists into our shop in the next couple weeks. I don’t know if I’m ready. In my circle of family and friends, all outside Vermont, there are now three confirmed cases, two vaccinated and asymptomatic, the youngest of the three very much not either. The oldest two contracted the disease because they would not wait for a lessening. They are vaccinated. Believing themselves protected, they traveled. They were exposed unknowingly at a masked gathering. They drove back home — and inadvertently spread the plague to those who must work if travel is to happen. So I’m a bit sensitized.
I’d like to ask that you don’t come to Vermont this year. Yes, this means less tourist income in a state that is dependent on tourism. But better the income loss than a loss, or even merely lessening of life. Don’t come to see the leaves unless you can make a day trip of it. Don’t go shopping while you are here. If you must come, then pack a picnic lunch and spend the day in your car. Please, don’t come in my shop. I really don’t trust a flimsy mask to keep my self-attacking immune system plague free. After all, I’ve had mumps — and yet am fully inoculated against it.
The leaves will be changing again this time next year. Let’s all work at keeping ourselves — especially all our unvaccinated children and those who have to support this mad service economy — alive and well until the next autumnal pageant.
for 8 September 2021
You can respond in the comments below or make a Twitter post to the Wednesday Word. Either way, begin your response with #autumnal. Your response can be anything made from words. I love poetry, but anything can be poetic and you needn’t even be limited to poetics. An observation, a story, a thought. Might even be an image — however, I am not a visual person, so it has to work harder to convey meaning. In the spirit of word prompts, it’s best if you use the word; but I’m not even a stickler about that. Especially if you can convey the meaning without ever touching the word.
If responding in Twitter, you are limited to the forms of Twitter. I would prefer that there be no threads because that is difficult. So if you have something long, post it in the comments below. That said, please don’t go too long. Keep it under 2000 words. I’m not going to count, but I’m also not promising to read a novel. Unless it’s really good!
If I receive something particularly impressive, I’ll post it next week. If not, well, that’s fine too. I know you all are busy. But if you’ve read this far, then I’ve made you think about… autumnal.
the days grow short still we cling to autumnal dreams even as airs burn and busy streets are inundated we turn to waxing harvest moons and await with orange impatience the waning hunter grinning over corn stalks we bless the days of atonement with horns though the grasses are all withered and sleepy-eyed winter is no salve the oaks may bear but we are too weary in this heat to gather we marionette through these days pulled by strings and fevered will wearing the season like so many skeleton leaves until our masks are stolen by wildfire winds for where is harvest home when the hearth lies in smokey ruin and the center has long been broken we wear these dreams in dying desperation though no pageantry past will return we know those days are done yet we wear these autumnal dreams of harvest to hunter past as days grow merely lessened and candles in western windows blow out
©Elizabeth Anker 2021