Monday, November 1, 2010

Imagine All The Beauty!

Welcome November, along with all of your autumn splendor that October so generously has left in your care.  I love traveling the country roads all around my house at this time of the year, when the trees present a kaliediscope of color in patchwork quilt precision and my imagination takes flight along with the Canadian geese flying overhead.  These past few weeks have changed the landscape into a carnival of festive colors inviting me to enjoy nature's snapshots of life in the country.

It has been said that "Winter is an etching, spring is a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn is a mosaic of them all." This past week, here in Northern Virginia, proved that to be a deservedly beautiful and accurate observation. The passing of time has changed the color wheel of the Blue Ridge from smokey blues to fiery golds and oranges with tufts of mottled reds, browns and greens mixed in to calm the scene against the backdrop of dusty azure-gray skies.

It has been a time for this gardener to stop and, perhaps not smell the roses, but take note of the trees preparing to shed their summer clothes by wearing colorful costumes as their last "harrah" until next spring.  Wherever I turn, I see what reminds me of a cornucopia bountifully filled with fruit and vegetables shimmering in the bright sunlight on top of a well-dressed table ready for a special family dinner. 

These country roads have willingly displayed delightful painted pictures of trees lined up like beauty queens, all perfectly coiffed, waiting for their turn to sashay down the runway.  Each tree shows off her own pair of  red tinged earrings that compliment shiny, frilly skirts swaying with the autumn breeze and bowing to the claps and whistles of the admiring audience at hand.

And, then there are the Ginger-topped trees that remind me of pretty red-head girls with naturally curly hair.  Their heads bobbing to the rhythm of a windy rumba dance melody playing in the distance.  I can just imagine the red leaves' delight if they had the opportunity to glance at their natural, freckle-faced reflections in a mirror.  The black and brown branches would laugh and shake their full manes' shimmery curls, spilling out everywhere and making the surrounding blond and brunette tree creatures a bit jealous.

Yet, the golden blond trees, determined not to have the spotlight taken from them, strike a pose, flashing their long legged trunks as well, wrapped in ruffles of amber.  They stand straight, proud and beautiful like flamenco dancers poised as their high-heeled shoes tap, almost unseen, to the musical sounds of the wind playing a high-brow tango that bounces through the woods.  The sun shines through their silky golden aura adding to the drama of it all.  Still, the orange-red leaves tease the gold ones, and both egg each other on with taunts of "Who is the fairest of them all!?"

Not to be forgotten in any way, chrysanthemums of every hue and bold pumpkins add their own special "bling" to the sights of the colorful trees and sounds of  the autumnal wind.They also keep reminding me that November changes the tablescape in preparation for "old man winter" to make his presence known soon...very soon.

However, the gaiety of the fall season will continue on, giving thanks for the beauty of nature.  Decorations adorn busy streets, roadside vignettes and humble doorsteps.  Even though October's season of the witch is coming to an end, the cauldron of colors stirred up by frosty nighttime spells cast in old haunted houses hidden in the woods continues to linger and Halloween frivolities range from the sublime to the ridiculous. 

I had sworn off collecting leaves, altogether, at the beginning of this season, thinking the hot, dry summer would not produce anything beautiful. Yet, in the end, Mother Nature did get her way and presented a rainbow of colorful leaves and I could no longer resist gathering just a few this year.  With only a few collected, I decided to channel my mother and her old-fashioned way of truly preserving and pressing leaves between waxed paper.  This task, thank goodness, did not last long, as I did not have a lot of leaves collected to preserve.  Yet, it was a fun and frivolous hour spent recalling childhood memories to keep along with the newly pressed leaves now stashed neatly under a pile of books in my workroom.  I'll use them in a few weeks to dress up our Thanksgiving table.

While ironing my leaves, I found myself recalling to a favorite poem of my mother that that often appeared, at this time of year, on the cover of the Chicago Tribune's Sunday magazine. It described the beauty and mystery of fall wrapped up in the legend of  Indian Summer by Henry Van Dyke.  The picture on the cover of the Sunday magazine always depicted a fall scene taking place around an evening fire of freshly raked leaves with smoke billowing up into the dark sky revealing ghostly shadows of dancing Indians.  She used to read it aloud to my brother, sister and me and then carefully cut out the picture and poem and save them, somewhere in a book, probably in much the same way she preserved the leaves we collected.  It's a lovely nostalgic poem and it goes like this:

Indian Summer
A soft veil dims the tender skies,
And half conceals from pensive eyes
The bronzing tokens of the fall;
A calmness broods upon the hills, 
And summer's parting dream distills
A charm of silence over all.

The stacks of corn, in brown array,
Stand waiting in the placid day,
Like tattered wigwams on the plain;
The tribes that find a shelter there
Are phantom peoples, forms of air, 
And ghosts of vanished joy and pain.

At evening when the crimson crest
Of sunset passes down the West,
I hear the whispering hosts returning;
On far off fields by elm and oak,
I see the lights, I smell the smoke,--
The Camp-fires of the Past are burning.

So, welcome November and farewell to October.  The calender turned the page and, in turn, the fall season turns along with the leaves still clinging to the tree branches, swirling in the wind and scattered lazily on the ground.  As sure as I walk these country roads taking in their peaceful and moody scenery from quaint to glorious, November, in it's own way, will be every bit as beautiful as October.  I can just imagine it already. 

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