Sunday, September 20, 2015

Now in Living Color

Where I grew up, fall color wasn't a thing.

The house was surrounded mainly by camellia bushes, with an orange tree and a grapefruit tree in the back yard, and a gardenia bush under the grapefruit tree -- neither they nor the loquat tree were deciduous. We also had peach, plum, nectarine, apricot, cherry and cherry-plum trees, but I don't recall noticing them turning color in the fall. Nor our fig trees, though they were behind the detached garage, or our neighbor's avocado tree.

We had as dizzying an array of California-type arbory as one suburban lot could hold, and we enjoyed the fruits (ahem) for 14 years. The most telling sign of fall for me was the faint smoky smell and slight golden sun haze resulting from the burning of rice fields outside town (a practice long since outlawed). Even the sycamore and fruitless mulberry trees I knew elsewhere didn't put on much of a show.

It wasn't until I moved to Fairbanks, Alaska that fall color was abundant and abrupt. Varying a little each year, there was always about a week in September that the hillsides north and west of the city were uniformly golden. When we bought a house in what I called "greater North Pole," we were in the midst of the Interior's boreal forest and the season of color couldn't be missed.

Of course that meant that for a few weeks between the dropping of the leaves -- and they fell as abruptly as they had turned -- and the first layer of the coming winter's snowpack, came the Interior's darkest season; the summer's continuous daylight was gone, the trees no longer held the last golden glow of twilight nor reflected house or yard lights, and the ground, though carpeted with leaves, was downright gloomy compared to the gleaming white it would be by the end of October.

Here in metro Atlanta, we do get a definite color season, much longer than that enjoyed in the far North, and more gradual. Different species of tree have their different schedules. Some stands of Bradford pear, for example, turn abruptly red before the casual eye notices any other changes -- other stands wait longer. Meanwhile though, individual leaves on dogwoods may be showing red, or there may be yellow leaves here and there on the poplars and sweetgums.

We're in the earliest phases now, with the sparsest hints of color to come seen on scattered trees in the woods of McGehee's Freehold. If any Bradford pear trees have begun to turn I haven't seen it yet, but I'm keeping an eye out. Fairbanks has had its golden hillsides for several days now, but they may have snow before our trees down here are fully involved.

(Note: the fall-themed background image currently -- today, and until winter -- gracing this site was taken by Mrs. McG on our September 2004 visit to Fairbanks five years after moving away. We were on Chena Hot Springs Road, and the view is westward toward, I believe, Ester Dome.)

No comments: