I should have brought my camera today but didn’t. Words—inadequate as they are—will have to do. Not that any words, or any paint or fabric or even the catch-all lens of the camera could do justice to autumn color.
The color is at its peak, now. We are at that fragile moment when the trees are ready to display their incandescent loveliness. A wind, a rain, an hour, even—and the moment will be gone. Already, the sidewalks are littered with fallen leaves.
The sun shines behind the Japanese maple this morning, and I have to stop and look and look again and try to remember each detail. The reds in the south don’t achieve the heart-stopping scarlet that is found in northern states, but this Japanese maple surpasses anything I have seen. The sun picks out every spectrum of red—crimson, scarlet, burgundy, orange and even pink. There is the fire of rubies in these leaves and the deeper garnet shades; there is the hot blaze of firelight and the smolder of embers.
I find it hard to move on, but around the corner there are other autumn wonders. Here is a magnolia blooming cheerfully out of season, a carefree, creamy blossom framed by stiff leaves that run from green to shadowed ebony. There are roses, too, insouciant and heedless of cold nights, and a scatter of chrysanthemums that refuse to give up.
How can anyone hope to capture, never mind hold, all that this day offers? It would be wonderful if, on a cold and drear winter afternoon, I could pull out a memory and see it unfold like a panorama. Red, green, cream—and wait—here are a few trees that have not quite decided what to be. Their leaves are a mixture of oranges, yellows, reds and greens. They are taking their time about it, and I have a special empathy for them. Indecision is something I know all about!
And now I come to my favorite spot—a stop under the big tree with the yellow leaves. When I stand under this tree, I am enveloped in gold—a gold that gladdens both heart and senses. Perhaps this tree is the reason I use so much yellow in my own work—there is something about this color that conveys warmth and happiness.
Tomorrow or even later today all this may be on the wane. Leaves will fall, leaving their branches stark and bare. But even those denuded trees will have beauty, a spare elegance of line and form, and that will sustain me through the winter. Today, though, there is the treasury of autumn.
When the cold wind blows
I will remember this day
And be glad again.