Beating Autumn with a Stick
When we were walking around the Zemi Valley Open Air Museum in Cappadocia, Turkey, there was a ground’s worker beating a small yellow-leaved tree with a stick. We stopped in our tracks of exploring the historic dwellings in the rocks and just watched him, trying to wrap our heads’ around what exactly he was doing. He wanted to rid the tree of its leaves faster than nature would have it, so he could sweep them up and be done with it.
Be done with autumn. I have never in all my life ever felt like I was ready to be done with autumn and the season should move on into dreary November. Especially this autumn.
I have a contract with New Jersey Monthly Magazine to write a hiking story and capturing the fall colors in the photographs are of utmost importance. My editor said he was hoping for peak color in the pics. That would be nice, but we had travel plans. Choosing to travel to Turkey during the last two weeks of October was living on the edge as far as timing of peak season goes. It didn’t happen before we left and I was concerned it would happen before our return.
As our plane descended into the surrounding New Jersey countryside near Newark, NJ, I could see that every single deciduous tree had ALL of their leaves still on. The trees looked stuffed- round and swollen with fall color. Excellent. I didn’t miss it. I could get out for my two remaining hikes and Bryce could do a good job photographing. A trip to New Jersey was scheduled as soon as I could unpack and do my wash.
But the weather had other plans. Although skies were clear and the rain had passed, a ferocious wind had started up since our plane landed we and arrived home. I heard the wind roaring outside, pushing its way through the jambs of our windows and doors of our log home.
Come morning, autumn was gone. All gone. It had left in the night. It had moved on.The wind had beat the trees like the ground worker in Cappadocia with his stick. But the wind does a much thorough job.
Bryce and I traveled to New Jersey to hike the last two hikes for the story today and we were hard pressed to find any color hanging on. An occasional beech tree with its fluttering, paper-thin leaves. And a small red shrubby tree down low, that had beautiful rosy pink leaves. When I touched them gently with my finger tips to examine them up close, they all tumbled off the branches and floated to the ground like confetti. Their days are numbered too. In fact, later tonight, they will drop off too as the rains come.
I never get USED to this happening. This sudden abrupt switch when a cold November rain nails the autumn leaves and drives them to the earth. When they have held on as long as they could, when they have displayed their beauty for as many days as they could, they release their hold and drop, often all at once, overnight. I hate it. It is so sudden, so final. I like to see them flutter down like pieces of the sun, as though the forest is raining scraps of color- red, peach and golden-yellow. I like late fall to linger. So I can get used to the change that is about to occur.
Any change in life is easier accepted if it happens slowly, in stages, so we can get used to it. I had both parents die, both very young, in their mid-50’s.- one parent hung one like the leaves on the trees, and went slow with cancer; the other parent went fast with a heart attack. Guess which one was easier to accept? Cancer gave us the gift of time.
This aggressive fierce wind, beating the beautiful leaves like the man with the stick, makes me sad. Very few things in the natural world makes me sad but this does. I wanted more time.
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Thanks! Enjoyable essay!!!!
Leaves are still full of color and clinging to the branches in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.
Cindy, Thank you for this beautiful piece. I can relate on so many levels. I too feel the sadness as the leaves fall without linger. (more so as I get older). But in winter, while hiking or cross-country skiing in the forest, when I come upon a solitary gem-colored leaf peeking through the snow, I am reminded of seasons past… and my heart is warmed by memories of departed loved ones.
thank you of sharing this Melanie- you are right, i feel the same way and love winter once it arrives- it is this transition and abruptness that i do not like- i can settle into doing yoga at night and filling the wood stove and baking pies etc and reading more- it is just the loss of so much color – i love fall so much – it invigorates me-