News reports are telling us where the trees are at peak color and when ours will be, as if there is one magical moment to enjoy them and then they just clutter the lawns and gutters and bleak winter sets in for months. My ash trees are bare now - people had been photographing them only a few days ago - and the maples haven't reached that Mardi Gras drag queen "look at me! look at me!" state just yet.
It's time to broaden appreciation of autumn's beauty.
The wind caught the ash leaves and they were a million kites at the end of branches, rustling, spinning, holding on for one more day. Then a gust would catch them and like a cloud of yellow moths, they streamed; they jostled and jockeyed for position, gliding toward the ground and then floated for a moment before coming to rest.
After they had landed, they slowly began to dry and took on the appearance of a bowl of cereal and, at first, had the same blandness. But then other senses took over. There was a susurration, as soldier leaves amassed on ridges, waiting to make their move. Then, as they dried more, a crackling. When the wind finally caught them, there was the sound of bacon frying, a round of applause.
The smell of leaves begins to fill the air long before someone becomes the first to light a bonfire. Early, there's an earthiness, then a dryness that catches at the back of the throat, finally a musty wetness.
A look back at the trees shows a few stragglers, even a few still insistently green leaves. A green and yellow stalk bedizens a tree otherwise barren; then one sees the lichens on the bark, the nests that one had not noticed for two generations of young and a caterpillar looking for shelter. The trees are rife with ornament, just lacking in leaves.
The maps show there's nothing to see here, that one has to drive to see leaves at their peak. The cars that head out stir up a commotion among the fallen leaves. Fallen, they still have something to say.