It doesn't feel much like Fall today, on this humid afternoon in Connecticut with tomatoes still on the vine and a yard without enough leaves to rake. It almost feels as if some Great Conductor has drawn out the season with a caesura before the main themes of Autumn's opera emerge. There are strings rustling in the turning leaves - in a stand of golden birch, a splash of Scarlett maple - but for a few extended days the somber notes of Indian summer lie heavy on the Litchfield Hills. I strain to hear the recitative in flying geese, the fugue of brassy maples and oaken bass viol.
Just as you cannot really smell the brine of the sea in a warm ocean, the air must be crisp and the sky an eggshell blue to really breathe in the Fall. It must be cool enough to carry the crackle of dry leaves, and hints of woodsmoke, and animate the long light of late afternoon.
There is color to be found in the swamps and the high mountainsides. I came upon this clump of sassafras leaves on the edge of a mountain bog that was thick with crimson high bush blueberry. Sassafras rivals in color and variety anything that sugar maple can provide - indeed the three distinct leaf forms are unique among our deciduous trees- but the display is all beneath the canopy, a descant to the maple's melody.
Fall abides in the mountaintops, and we found it there this weekend where a trio of states come together on the Taconic Plateau. From the valley the trees seem muted, an earth toned counterpoint where identity blurs. From the summit of the mountain the pattern becomes clear, and maple, birch, beech and oak rise up and announce themselves in turn. There were hawks and vultures on the thermals, along with a kettle of parasailers wheeling above Mt. Frissell. They were like great leaves on an updraft, skipping above the patchwork forest and out over the farmland below.
The cool ravines are winter's lair in somber hemlock evergreen, but where low water slips over weathered stone the largest waterfalls are still murmuring before the silence of winter ice. Leaves collect in forest pools, sift through the branches to swirl in the stream. I descend with the leaves in the stream to the lingering summer and wait for the Maestro's down stroke. Soon, even now, the next movement will begin. Again.