If March is the chameleon month, October is its cousin. One day is bright and crisp, brimming with fresh vitality; the next is under a dreary roof of slate framed by steel wool curtains...a lint-filter sky.
Nature takes its full palette of pastels, earth tones and half shades and thrown them together in a tapestry simultaneously chaotic and yet invitingly familiar. Autumn is our annual sunset, the rich colors and interweaving of light providing our last look at the year, with the winter night temporarily postponed but imminently inevitable.
October's loud colors are matched by its noisy winds. The brittle leaves crackle in the breeze, a sure giveaway it's autumn on those increasingly rare warm south wind nights. The leaves lodge in the lawns, shove into shrubs and burrow into the bushes; the nachos style crunchiness amplifies the sound of footsteps.
Brash noise and sullen solitude. Bold bright colors and dim dreariness. Tossed trees with spiced scenery. How they match life's many moods and tastes. For here is captured the diversity of the entire annual cycle of earthly life. Yet for all of its richness and variety, few of its scenes and sounds will last out the year.
But, when winter's scouts retreat north for reinforcements, an eerie still is left behind. The quiet is punctuated by the quick tick of a bouncing acorn. The scene of vivid crispness is hidden by a haze that smears the colors. The waning sun is too feeble to stir the grimy soup; fog lingers through damp mornings. Later, the haze tints muted sunbeams on bittersweet warm afternoons. You can just barely feel the hint of bygone summer, but the lengthening shadows and eager evening dusk say warm times are headed for history.
As the sun wearies of its heated climb through summer skies, the woodlands are tossed into an autumn salad bar. The leaner diet of light and the fingers of frost lace the chervil and sage greens of summer with oregano, pumpkin spice and cinnamon. The ocean of summer green now has islands of amber and auburn amidst currents of crimson, the mixing colors changing each day.
Fall days can bring wondrous variety:
We can have windy days. In the nooks and crannies around buildings on a dry day you see dust, paper scraps and leaf fragments whipped into whirlpools, the tiny pieces sucked in and thrown out as the vortex vanishes.
Out in the countryside, cumulus cloud shadows race along the ground, racing along the ridges and vaulting the valleys. The trees, still in leaf. have their twigs twisted and their branches bent. In the fields and weedlots, unseen waves rustle the tassels and taller grass blades, the surface rippling like waves on a lake.
Other days represent just the opposite: foggy calm mornings and hazy quiet mellow afternoons. Tiny spider mites weave threads and fragile strands that drift in the slightest puff of wind. The leaves detach from their summer homes to form a carpet of brown crinkle on the forest floor. Acorns snap to ground. You can still feel a hint of summer in the afternoon air; the long shadows of late afternoon and the early dusk make us sense somehow the summer party is over.
Only later do we find ourselves skewered on the rotisseri of reality, sucked in by the shop-vac of autumn's summer remnants, raked over by nature's leaf blower, the rototiller of northerly winds. The annual chilly eraser transforms the artful tapestry of October to the gray canvas of late fall and winter.
by Elliot Abrams