November 29, 2022

Follow the yellow brick road!


Autumn leaves don’t fall, they fly.  They take their time and wander on this their only chance to soar.

-Delia Owens


A carpet of yellow and tan leaves covers the tarmac of the rail-trail — oak and maple mostly, but there are also, in places, birch, aspen and black walnut.  The colorful quilt softens footfalls, but it also adds a crisp rustling to the sound of passing feet and paws.  There are so many dry and brittle leaves on the ground off-trail that it’s easy to hear a miscreant squirrel as he bounds through the undergrowth.  The trees from which the leaves fell still have some left, even a few that are green, but their bony skeletons are definitely poking through the foliage.

Looking out over the landscape across a clearing at Fort Meadow Reservoir, I can see lumpy vistas of green, yellow, orange and red undulate off into the distance.  A hard freeze has yet to come, but we have had temps in the early morning of 32℉.  That’s cold enough to start the arboreal shedding, but not enough to completely denude the deciduous trees.  The green I see now is largely due to conifers, trees that during the summer are completely overshadowed by their leafy cousins.  Today is warm, by fall standards, with a high of 69℉.  It’s the kind of day that you can enjoy while being in your shirtsleeves and yet still be immersed in all the splendor the season has to offer.

I’ve always liked the fall.  To me, it feels like a time of resurgence, a reawakening — even more so than spring.  Many plants and animals are on the verge of hibernation, but in my early years, this was when my life began anew after a summer hiatus.  School started again, with the promise of new things to learn and do.  Social activity increased as more people moved into my circle of interaction.  With all that, new opportunities arose for adventure and exploration.

I remember one fall in particular.  I’ve always liked the idea of flying an airplane.  This started when I was about 6 years old.  My brother, who is three years older than I, built plastic models of WWII airplanes.  I would hold them by the fuselage and pretend I was piloting them in swooping dives, gracefully curving banked turns and vertical climbs.  I knew about ailerons, elevators, rudders, flaps and propellers.  I understood, to some degree, how and why they worked and how to use them.  I knew about thrust, drag, lift and weight.  I knew and understood that the way to land was to fly onto the ground.  I intuitively grokked what it meant to fly a plane.  And I yearned to actually do it.  Then, in the autumn when I was fifteen, an opportunity arose that I could not refuse.

I had a job working in a grocery store, putting fruit and vegetables out on the stands.  For $1.00 an hour.  Shortly thereafter, the minimum wage law took effect and my wages jumped to $1.06 and hour.  Not much, but enough that, over many weeks, I had some saved.  With that money burning a hole in my pocket, I heard, I don’t remember how, that the biology teacher in my high school was a flight instructor.  So, I waited outside the door to his classroom until class was over and approached him, saying I wanted to learn to fly.  He was very accommodating and shortly thereafter my experiences in flight began.  He would pick me up, a couple of times a week, at 6 in the morning, and we’d go fly, then go to school.  I immediately fell in love and now, at 73, I have a lifetime of wonderful memories to peruse.  That was truly a wonderful fall to remember.

Nowadays, I walk with Waldo on the rail-trail in the autumn.  It no longer offers up the same kind of new opportunities to expand my life’s experiences as it used to, but the ebb and flow of time, punctuated by the change of seasons, persists.  Mother Nature pulses with seasonal change as the year progresses and the difference in my life from one to another is less dramatic than it used to be.  But still, just because of my history, I think the calendar year should begin with September first, not January first.

Waldo, I don’t think knows one season from another.  But I do think he enjoys walking out here without suffering the heat of mid-summer, or the freezing cold of the winter.  It’s hard to tell for sure, what with his tail wagging and nose to the ground in hot pursuit of God-knows-what in any season.  When I think about it, I suppose every day provides ample opportunity for new experiences for him.

But, to me, fall is somehow still something special.


Somebody has jumped the gun and is decorating pine trees a little early…

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