Sunday, October 25, 2009


Today might have been the day. Is it a day? Or is it a split second, like the equinox, when the fall foliage (is there any other time when that normally stuffy word has such popularity?) —reaches peak.

No other season has a peak. Winter has a nadir, if anything, anywhere from January to March, when you think it's never going to end. Spring warms up, gets generally lush and amazing, and drives you crazy. Summer gets supremely hot, or intensely relaxing, but that can happen almost any time. Only fall has meteorologists pointing to maps of New England that show an advancing frontier of change labeled Before Peak, Near Peak, and Past Peak.

I buy into this. Even though it makes the season seem fragile and doomed. But yesterday was the ideal set-up. A raw, rainy Saturday spent putting up orange yard sale signs encased in plastic sleeves on telephone poles, light standards, and a few trees. A heavy downpour through the night. And then today, the sky miraculously clear, or lightly swept with cirrus clouds. And we sat in our driveway all morning and early afternoon, fiddling with displays of games and books and cassettes, seeing the merest trickle of yard sale devotees, because everyone else was out leaf-looking, pumpkin-buying, cider-sipping in the toasty mid-fall warmth, because today was the peak.

So after we shed the last of our unsold but unwelcomed-back possessions ("Curb it") and counted our maybe $159 earnings for the day, I took a late afternoon bike ride up Arlington's Minuteman Rail Trail to Lexington to see the peak. It wasn't a tunnel of gold and red; it never is. There were long stretches of stubborn green, and then a sudden maple all gone a complex orange, or sumac holding down the crimson, and then a brief sun-shot illumination of yellow this and copper that. You don't need the sun out to have a peak, but it helps.

What is it exactly, that weather-map frontier sweeping south from Canada, turning red to brown like fallen leaves and apples? Some kind of rolling command. Go! Change. Cold enough, sun weak enough, late enough in the orbit: now go. As in, to bed. Chlorophyll, your time is done. Let xanthophyll show. Sugars, make reds; follow the necessity. Like a Joan of Arc of secret renown (code name Jack Frost) whose real name is Necessity. Necessity Windfall, good name for a heroine. With an invisible, irresistible tide to follow her. Which they do, as I followed Carol's yard sale imperatives, because they know as I know that she knows about efficiency and handling change better than I do.

Now I'll go. As in, to bed.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for bringing a little New England to our suddenly green Dogtown. We've had unprecedented-for-the-18-years-I've-been-keeping-track early rain, in an unprecedented-for-October amount—more than six inches. Meanwhile, I've been watching our persimmon tree with growing concern until just today, when the topmost leaves are finally beginning their transformation. There is a moment when this tree will peak, like the big wild plum does in spring. They are our markers of the season here, along with fog in summer, which doesn't peak. Of course we have no winter.

    Sort of self-conscious posting a comment, isn't it? Not like a nice private email.