Autumn Leaves

While I have lived in the Pacific Northwest for over half of my life, I was born and raised in the Midwest.  And while it was not too hard to take the boy out of the Midwest, it has been much harder taking the Midwest out of the boy.  And never is this more apparent to me then in fall.

As a child and young adult, the transition from late summer to fall was one of my favorite times of the year.  Sunny days with that certain crispness in the air, fresh pressed cider and warm spiced donuts at the cider mill, the school year getting started, and the beginning of an amazing display of colors courtesy of Mother Nature.  True, it was always a bit hard to say goodbye to the warmth of summer, but fall almost always seemed to muster up some gorgeous days that just seemed to amaze me.  It was the kind of weather that you just wished would last a lot longer than it did.

Now, fall in the Pacific Northwest is no slouch, especially in the mountains and many areas east of the Cascades, but it somehow seemed to take a backseat to the other three seasons since they were much more pleasant that their counterparts in the Midwest.  Michigan winters were cold and snowy, summers were hot and humid, and spring was that thin line that divided the former from the latter, and could be missed in the blink of an eye.  Puget Sound’s tempered weather, by comparison, seemed like a good antidote for me, with milder winters, a very long spring and cooler summers.  And though I often missed my Midwest autumn weather, a net gain in three out of four seasons seemed like a reasonably good trade-off.

Over the years, though, I have come to see Pacific Northwest fall weather in a different light, and now appreciate it on its own terms.  And while the color change is a somewhat different palette than what I grew up with, it is still quite beautiful, as evident in this post’s featured image.  Unfortunately, this beautiful image was not taken in my beloved’s garden, but it was taken not too far from our home.  It is a grapevine that grows on the shed behind a house down the block from us.

Grapevine, 2007

Grapevine, 2007

To get a better understanding of our neighborhood, you need to know that the houses on our block are served by an alley, and that is where most of our neighborly gatherings and greetings take place.  Folks see each other driving to and from their houses, when they gather their mail, put out their garbage and recycling, and when they walk up to the end of the alley as they head on their way to the main street of our neighborhood.  Now I have been up and down this alley more times that I could ever possibly count, but it was not until several years ago that I actually started to pay any attention to my neighbors’ flowers and foliage that spilled out from their gardens into the alley.  Talk about an opportunity lost!

The house with the shed was, up until last year, occupied by one of our original neighbors when we moved into our house.  He was an older man who lived alone, and while we waved to each other on occasion, we never really formed any relationship.  Nonetheless, his shed, which abutted the alley, was quite weathered and fully covered with an old grapevine.  And, when Mother Nature cooperates, the leaves on this vine turn from green to beautiful shades of red and yellow each fall.  The shed was recently repainted in conjunction with the sale of the house, but to date the new owners have kindly left the vine alone, so I am anxious to see what Mother Nature has in store for it this fall.

Although we were not close, I miss that neighbor, as well as those that previously lived next door to him, as they were the “old timers” when we moved into the neighborhood.  Almost twenty years has since passed, and it now appears that my beloved and I, and our adjacent neighbors are now among the “old timers” on the block.  I suspect that grapevine, along with a handful of very mature trees, are truly the “old timers” of the block, but I imagine that they like to keep their ages to themselves, what with donning fresh coats of leaves each spring and all.  In the mean time, let the show of colors go on!  Take it away Nat – “Autumn Leaves” .

–Ken

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