Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I do not like autumn. I never have. I don’t like watching things die, if even only in the seasonal sense. Fall sends me into mourning for the lost summer, and already pining for spring.

Ironically, in the part of Arizona that I currently call home, the landscape looks dead the majority of the year, perking up only during the summer “monsoon” season. I know that life is merely hiding, though, cryptic in its way of dealing with heat and drought. Meanwhile, I am comfortable for most of the time. Not so here in New England.

Here, the spring and summer are fleeting. Life cycles seem speeded up by several orders of magnitude with insect species at least coming and going so quickly that they are easily missed if one isn’t paying attention, or rainy weather nudges one back indoors like it did this June and much of July. I am not alone in feeling short-changed in the sunshine department. Yesterday morning (Friday, October 16) it even snowed briefly.

The heralded “fall colors” here seem muted even by Massachusetts standards. Ornamental Norway maples are doing their part without much help from native maples. Oaks turn later I am told, and they sure seem to be taking their sweet time. Among the exceptional trees are red maples. They turned fiery red a few weeks ago in the “maple swamps,” truly spectacular in contrast to the blue skies and evergreens.

Here, people flock from elsewhere to see that kind of color. The tourists, some even from eastern Massachusetts, come as a mixed blessing to residents. Traffic picks up dramatically, and crawling along behind the “leaf peepers” seems a nearly intolerable price to pay for whatever revenue is injected into the local economy.

Apples, wool, and pumpkins dominate the mind and drive rural events now. I’m going to the annual pumpkin festival in Keene, New Hampshire later this afternoon in fact, tagging along with my “bus buddies” from the daily workweek commute. Friends and food are powerful motivations to venture out in the absence of insects and other wildlife to watch.

Last weekend I was in the vicinity of Antrim, New Hampshire with my friend Lynn Harper for their “Wool Arts Tour.” The event centered mostly around several farms where sheep, llamas, and alpacas are raised for their wool. I enjoy the pace of life away from the city, and the people here are warm and friendly, but I’d still be finding lots of insects on the desert broom (Baccharis) flowers back in Tucson.

Wet, fallen leaves underfoot, like a bowl of soggy cornflakes, and clouds condensing from one’s own breath. That is life right now.


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