Cheerful yellows and bright oranges, flaming reds and pretty pinks, deep maroons and aging browns .. that sneak up on you, haul you by the collar and bonk you on the head everywhere you go. And it’s not just the trees that turn color. What sets the New England fall apart is the ivy that falls in step with the season, and changes colors as well. Dull grey buildings and brownstones covered in suits of green during summer, looking all serious and stuffy. But fall arrives, and out come the masks and party hats, as they the join in the revelry and merrymaking.
Of course the rest of nature doesn’t like to be left behind, so it comes together to provide a backdrop to the leaves — impeccable blue skies, vibrant green pine trees, orchard grounds dotted with bushels of shiny red apples, chrysanthemums of a dozen colors blooming at every corner, and farms with hundreds of roly-poly cheerful pumpkins piled high, all waiting to happily tumble-tumble down.
But fall isn’t about color alone. It announces its arrival with a myriad of sounds, as well. Babbling brooks that tinkle at the first signs of frost. Rustling branches trying to shed the last of their leaves. Fallen leaves whooshing around in mini-tornadoes. The creak of the metal of an abandoned railroad track, one of the first to recognize the arrival of the cold. The rhythmic thuds of apples in a quiet orchard. The crunch of dried leaves under your feet as you walk on a cobblestone path. The squelch of old leaves in a puddle, as you step into it off the curb. Every single sound an instrument in the symphony of the season.
Fall is about touch too. The soft feel of a carpet of freshly fallen leaves. The kind that cover the ground so completely that you cannot tell what’s below. Bare ground, green grass, grey stone and charcoal pavement all painted over with reds and oranges, making everything seem equally friendly, equally warm and welcoming. Or a rough bale of hay beneath you during a hayride. Or the hard bumps of orphaned pine cones against your fingers as you collect them from beneath trees that have unthinkingly rejected them. Or the squishy feel of the insides of a pumpkin as you sit with your hands buried to your elbows in one, while a giggling three-year old makes you carve it.
And what is fall without the cornucopia of familiar smells and tastes? Of hot cider with a hint of cinnamon, nutmeg, orange and cloves. Of the smell of butter and sugar from freshly baked tarts, tempting you into the local bakery. Of the crunch of piping-hot cooked apples basted in brown sugar, waiting to go into a pie. Of memories of golden maple syrup as you drive by a sugar bush. Of the smell of fresh carved pumpkins greeting you at people’s doorsteps. Of the lingering smell of pine trees in the air, even when you cannot see any nearby. Of Halloween candy that leaves you on a permanent sugar high. Of moist earth as layers of leaves are raked away. Of leaves slowly growing old.
It’s the season of change, when the skirts get longer, jackets are pulled around tighter, and walking becomes more purposeful as people hurry indoors. When cheeks turn pink as familiar faces burst into smiles. A season of lingering tight hugs, of quick kisses shared on park benches, of hands held a little longer. Of sipping on big mugs of coffee clasped tightly with both hands. Of watching your breath fog up and making pretend smoke puffs. Of sneaking up on a squirrel while it ruminates on what berry to eat, and having it look up and pose for you as you gleefully click.
Fiery yet melancholic, bold yet tender, quiet like an aging monarch, romantic like a new lover, sprightly like a child .. fall has many a persona, playing many a role. And as it concludes its performance, takes a bow and exits gracefully, it seems the perfect time to applaud the season. A season that makes your senses come alive. A season that makes your senses dance.