FALLEN RAINBOW (part 2)
AUTUMN WINDS - Winds of seasonal change blow across these ancient hills, lifting dry leaves from their now sapless branches, momentarily making a swirling leaf-devil, before depositing skittering multicolored little beauties onto bench, window-sill and doorway. Late Fall has come to our corner of the Catskills. This wind can be a cold blast from the north or its warmer, southern-born cousin. It can pierce hastily-donned, long- misplaced warm clothing or it can gently caress the skin with its reminder of lost summer warmth. The winds of Fall have their own unique character, whether from the north or from the south. Either way they serve to remind us that much colder times are just around the corner. There is no season that quite compares to a northeast autumn, for not only do we have an incredible full- spectrum, multihued leafy pageant to gape at, all of us oohing and aahing as if we had never seen it before (and, in truth, each Fall is unique and amazing in its own right).
When Indian Summer does happen, it's like we live in a wonderful fantasy-land (we do), a bright colorful world that is also comfy and warm, allowing us to walk in the woods in short-sleeves, kicking leaves (?) and all with the extra advantage of no black-flies or mosquitos! The only insect-life to speak of now are the last few butterflies - Sulphurs and Whites - a couple of stray bees and Ladybugs, as well as a few Crickets still, not giving up and being very persistent - like the ultimate child that will not go to bed. Yes, we'll still find an ant or two under rocks and an impending warm-spell (even just one day) will bring out more stubborn insects, happily fooled by the brief seeming return to summer. Of course, this occasion will make our wintering small-birds: Bluejays, Cardinals, Chickadees, Juncos, Sparrows and Wrens very happy to have more to feast upon, allowing them to put off their winter diet of berries and seeds. Recent rain and wind have helped remove most of the leaves of the hardwoods and the sun arcs lower and lower, barely making it over the southern horizon it seems. We’ve enjoyed a blissful run of false summer but now we must face early winters inexorable approach. FALL
LEAVES - It was a wonderful Fall in so many ways, but there are still too many leaves on branch and bough. Most of these are an unnatural dark brown, which may indicate that they died, probably from dryness, before they could color. They will most likely remain so for the season, unless they capture significant amounts of snow and succumb to its weight or to a combination of white stuff and wind. This is not to be confused with Beeches and some Oaks, for whom it is natural to keep their ecru or golden beauties all winter, gently chattering in the wind, allowing for some aural pleasure in an otherwise quiet time. This is called “marcescence” and is an evolutionary holdover from when all trees kept their leaves year-round. MORE GOLD - Like it was in early fall, again gold seems to be a dominant color in our woods. One golden standout is the gleaming berries of the Bittersweet Vine (Celastrus scandens). Beautiful to behold but deadly to the young tree or shrub it entwines, this is another invasive that no home- or land-owner should hesitate to remove. In contrast, our only small tree that flowers in the winter - the wonderful Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) (below, right) - is doing so as I write, branches bedecked with bright yellow flowery filaments. This is a very beneficial plant with many medicinal uses, most commonly known being its excellent topical astringent abilities. LIKE EMBERS BURNING -As the fall colors of 2022 slowly dissipate, melting into the Catskills landscape, they gradually change into the more somber tones we associate with winter. Sort of like a fire, if you consider midsummer the highest fire-flame, then now you might see the embers fade, almost as if the fire is going out. Luckily for us, the fire of life in the earth never really goes out, but just hides in plain sight, hidden under bark or deep in root, waiting for warmth to return. It’s almost like a fire that has been well-banked to keep the buried embers hot to wait for spring-time, the season of life, for them to be stoked back to warm, vibrant life.
THE FALL FOREST - I wonder how the forest thinks about the impending winter. I say it that way because I believe the forest is one entire being, each tree just one part of it. I think trees always communicate, whatever the season, through their branches and their roots, which are all intertwined - just like how their (our?) lives are. That wind I mentioned before, as it races through the trees, stripping them bare of this year's leafy bounty, it is helping the trees, or, perhaps over untold millennia the forest has learned to adapt to having the wind help them shed their dried parts, blowing them to the forest-floor, where first the leaves protect the roots from the worst of winter's cold, then they become another layer of soil for the following season. Pretty darn smart, I'd say. Don’t forget to bring a light into the woods now. Also, hats and gloves are a good idea, as well. With the possibility of snow, warm boots with good traction, even trekking poles.
Thank you all. Please Take Care and Have a Happy and Safe Late Fall - “Ranger” Dave Holden / (845)594-4863 /firstname.lastname@example.org / rangerdaveholden@Instagram / Dave Holden on Facebook / www.woodstocknytrails.com