Column: I blinked and almost missed autumn

Nov. 09, 2013 @ 03:37 PM

Autumn finally arrived in Caldwell County. At my house it lasted less than a week.

On Halloween, the trees in my front yard were green. All the trees in the park behind the house that hadn’t already dropped green leaves to the ground were either still green or a muddy green-brown-pale-something.

Two days later, everything suddenly turned color. Well, some of them did.

Then on Thursday winds came, and most of the leaves fell.

Now, you can curse me as an old fuddy duddy — and maybe I am starting to look like one, since the first thing my new doctor asked me was how many flights of stairs I can climb — but didn’t autumn used to come before Halloween and last longer than five days?

When was the time for us to walk in the woods, or drive through the countryside with the top down, the better to get a vivid, three-dimensional view of the Technicolor display?

Not that we could have taken much advantage of the time. It wasn’t a particularly vivid autumn, contrary what the leaf-color-predicting scientists kept saying. The really wet summer won’t hurt the colors, they said. It’s dry days in the weeks before it gets cold, they said, that are really important.

Sure.

“The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long,” said the mad-scientist corporate genius wearing Coke-bottle glasses in the science-fiction classic “Bladerunner,” a less poetic version of a thought expressed by Edna St. Vincent Millay that everyone accepts as common wisdom.

But obviously the reverse is not always true — lasting half as long doesn’t necessarily mean something is twice as brilliant.

But fallen leaves all make the same soothing, whooshing sound as you walk through them. The ones that fell in my back yard while still green, then turned brown, and the ones in front that turned vibrant yellow before falling evoke childhood memories equally, except in the back yard you have to close your eyes and just listen.

We didn’t get a long, brilliant autumn, but we still have our autumn leaves. Rake them up and pile them deep. Savor the rustling sound. Toss them into the air, then rake them up again.

Just try to remember that the fun of a running jump into the pile is followed quickly by the realization that a pile of leaves is not a mattress. That’s one childhood memory that for me remains as brilliant as this autumn wasn’t.