Last week the fall foliage was in its peak around here. Fall seems to be about a week late this year. That is not too surprising as this has been an unusual year for weather. We had a warmer than usual winter followed by a cooler than normal summer. You can believe that when we have a summer where the mercury doesn’t break 100 degrees it is remarkable. What is even stranger is that I have already seen my first snowflakes this year. They were miniscule, wind-blown and didn’t stick, but still, they were real snowflakes. I can’t ever remember seeing them in November before. Yup, this is a very strange year.
Unlucky for me, the pine trees in my yard decided to have two falls, this year. Late in October and the first week of November, the ground and my roof were covered by a heavy layer of pine needles. Since I am not allowed on the roof following that unfortunate incident with a sleigh full of toys a few Decembers ago, I called the local yard care guy. He and his crew armed with backpack blowers made short shrift of the brown stuff; quickly having it piled up on the side of the street, providing the drivers in my neighborhood a little challenge as they tried to avoid the steel plate the city has left in the middle of the road since July. Mother Nature took one look at this and decided I needed a lesson in being too neat too soon in the year. Three days of admiring my yard was all I was going to get. Along comes a powerful cold front, the one that had the afore-mentioned snowflakes in it, and now a second layer of pine needles lay all over my yard. To make matters worse, the day after the second pine needle fall, my next door neighbor had her lawn guys come over. The contrast couldn’t be clearer. The Lady and the Tramp comes immediately to mind. I figure another week and it will be safe to clean up my yard again. Keeping up with the Joneses is such hard work. Sigh!
So much for the perils of being a homeowner in the Fall; this piece is about the beauty of this time of year, not the drudgery of yard work. All across the city the ginkgos were flashing their bright yellow leaves in the breeze. The Bartlett Pears wore their bright red mantle of leaves. The oaks, sycamores and sweet gums turned out their best. Driving to work, I pass through some of the most heavily wooded neighborhoods in the city and the riot of color always brings a smile to my lips, even before the first cup of coffee in the morning. The route to work takes me through two school zones that turn the main route into a parking lot, so I detour through the local neighborhoods. The lower speed limit there does not bother me as it allows me more time to take in all the beauty of the leaves sparkling in the morning sun under achingly beautiful blue skies.
Since I am semi-retired, some days I have the opportunity to leave work before the sun comes down and make my way home as shafts of the late afternoon sun make the leaves come alive with color. On warmer days, I have a few minutes to sit on the deck with the dogs and marvel at the beauty around me. On the cooler days, I can sit in my home studio and enjoy the Fall outside my windows. Such a huge contrast to slugging my way home in the dusk in five o’clock rush hour traffic.
As I sit here writing I can tell that the dogwoods, the crepe myrtles and the pear trees are taking their winter forms. Stark, naked branches frame the winter sky looking forlorn and lonely as the trees begin to hibernate for the cold weather ahead. Looking at them reminds me of the vistas up North where all trees are deciduous and everything is so bleak under grey winter skies. Down here in the South we have abundant evergreens to keep thing looking alive during the winter. Especially in my yard!
Yes – those same pine trees who were garnering my wrath earlier as they dumped all those pine needles on my yard now stand wrapped in gloriously green foliage, well at least greenery to keep my spirits up all winter. So let the cold winds blow, let the snow come! It just might this year. Snow is such a rare occurrence that it is always a little welcome, as long as it is snow and not wet sticky ice. Snow in the pines, a truly unique southern experience. Oh MY!