I look around, see the trees, and breathe it all in, the intense shades of color and the thousands of leaves, some still attached to the branches and others dancing with the crisp wind while falling down.
The autumn foliage is peaking this year in Upstate New York the week of October 17, growing strong in color by the hour. This region is one of the best places to see the forest and towns covered in yellow, orange, red, purple, and brown.
I may be just a visitor seeing things bigger and brighter. Local residents have probably tired of this natural phenomenon, perhaps dreading having to rack the yard often as the weather changes from crisp to wintery. But the yearly experience makes it all worthwhile, as people I spoke with shared, emphasizing the price is little compared with the beauty of the autumn foliage. Nobody likes to rack, but it is a chore, and it must be done, they said.
Although it is my first time seeing such wonders, I have followed the fall season for years in my imagination. When I was young, someone gave me a puzzle featuring autumn foliage. I remember, living in Sonora in Northern Mexico, how picturesque it felt and how I wondered what it would be like to see the falling leaves, feel the wind, and sit in these seemingly faraway places. I have been in love with the vibrancy of autumn since I was a little girl.
Many years later, as an adult living in the United States, I seek opportunities to drive up north on the West Coast from September to November. I have found beautiful foliage in Northern California, Oregon, and Washington, but nothing compares with the vegetation in the Northern-Eastern side of the country. The autumn foliage here is spectacular to see, hear, smell, and even touch.
It is mid-October, and I am visiting my niece and her young family; they live in Fairport in Monroe County, New York. I am lucky to have someone local showing me around. One day we drove up to a park and took a hike on a path by a pond called the Devil’s Bathtub Trail. As soon as we arrived at the area, my eyes popped as the bright yellow, deep amber, fiery orange, and vibrant red leaf showed up in almost all trees, bursting their colors from side to side. It was peaking, no doubt.
The United States Forest Service says that scientists have been trying to understand the changes that occur in trees and shrubs this time of the year. They explain that the change of color and the onset of falling leaves is determined not only by leaf pigments but also by the length of night, changes in weather, and in most cases, the amount of moisture in the soil.
Surrounded by this scientifically explained landscape, I remembered what ancestors have forever known, and new age gurus now insist that we learn: in all its colors, nature heals.
The trees, with their forms, sounds, and aromas, have the power to cure human melancholy and spiritual pain but also have the capacity to spark our imagination and infuse our intuition with inspiration. And the healing and inspiration become clearer when nature gets dressed in such vivid and powerful colors.
It is something spectacular to see and experience. And one wonders, how can all this magic be possible? How can this dance in color once a year show up? Is it intentional? Or is it just a natural cycle that accidentally happens as a gift to us humans?
-Lupita Franco Peimbert
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