Growing up in Buffalo, New York, I saw fall as a harbinger of doom. All I could ever see was winter down the pike. But autumn here in New England is really a different thing, and it’s a big deal. It’s like Mardi Gras is to New Orleans — a famous tourist event, but also a sort of sacred thing to the locals. It permeates the conversations, the talk radio, the TV news. And though I’m pretty apprehensive about the coming winter, I can see what the enthusiasm is all about.
The colors haven’t quite peaked yet, but already leaves are falling. They drop, on the slightest breeze, in distended patterns that mirror the shapes of the trees themselves. On the ground they look like bright, flame-colored shadows — a wild effect in and of itself, but those brilliant carpets become backdrops, too. The girls on the street do somersaults through them, and chipmunks gambol about them, so tiny they’re nearly buried in leaves except for their tails, sticking straight up and darting to and fro. One morning I saw our neighbor’s 3-year-old son, sitting quietly by himself in a sea of orange, placidly picking up one leaf, inspecting it, and setting it down for another. And in the afternoon, it was a flock of Canada geese, pecking for bugs and being stalked in vain by the neighbor’s cat, Tiger Jr., a rather inelegant hunter on account of the bell around his neck and his abnormally stumpy legs.
If it’s especially breezy or windy, leaves drop in droves, so that all you see out the window is a shower of color. I was trying to think of a different verb than rain to describe it — then it started raining for real, and the leaves were falling almost as thick and fast as the drops. They ended up plastered flat on the road, like decoupage.
My parents were here this past weekend, and we had just settled down for a cocktail hour when I looked out the living room window and gasped. “Oh my God,” I said. “We gotta go outside.” In front of our house, Fletcher Circle runs east-west, giving us a good view of sunsets. The sun was sinking, and the sky was hitting that point where clouds become pink and blue streaks across a field of coral.
We stood there on the street, mouths agape, steeped in some of the most vibrant colors I’ve ever seen — from buttercup yellow through oranges and reds to deep, radiant magenta — all of them, in that sunset glow, looking so intense, so lit from within, that the air was practically pulsating. “I feel like I’ve stepped into a Maxfield Parrish painting,” my dad murmured.
So I walk around in a state of amazement, singing “Autumn Leaves” to myself. Dare I say the place is growing on me?