Monday, April 12, 2010

Falling softly

More autumn thoughts as this beautiful weather continues. In New Zealand the air is so clear (those words, incidentally, a perfect rhyme in Newzuld) that, while it's brilliant to be able to see for miles and miles, colours don't come out so well in photos, I think. There's a hard glitter of sunshine off foliage especially that makes the range of greens less easy to appreciate - so the photographer's favourite Golden Hour is that much more valuable here. But in autumn, as the sun lowers, it's as if the dawn/dusk period is extended much further throughout the day.

Even so, it's probably because of our harsh light that we’ll all get skin cancer I so appreciated autumn colours in England, both New and old - especially the drive across Massachusetts into the Berkshires, when the oranges, reds and yellows got more intense the further north we went. It was Columbus Day while we were there, so I got on the yellow school bus in Adams and joined the annual Greylock Ramble:

>>>...Mt Greylock is the highest point of the Berkshires at just over 1000 metres and every Columbus Day (the second Monday in October) several thousand people hike to the top for a picnic. Many are family groups with dogs and children in tow or aboard – “You’re not ready for a break yet?” gasped one red-faced man to the sturdy and protesting toddler on his back, as he looked longingly at an inviting log. Teenagers ambled upwards, busily texting, chubby ladies panted “There’s food at the top, right?” and serious walkers with collapsible sticks and GPS receivers announced elevation and average walking speed at regular intervals. Since the starting point was 488 metres, this was never going to be a marathon climb, which was just as well as it left plenty of opportunity to admire the tapestry of colours above and underfoot, and time to stop and stare when a breeze passed through the trees with a rattle of branches and a rustle of falling leaves.

At the top there was an unexpected pawn-shaped lighthouse, a lodge where organisers gave out certificates and collected data to decide the youngest and oldest walkers, plus the one who had come the furthest (I’m expecting my acknowledgement in the mail any day now), and a long view over five states. The most remarkable thing was that the woods were virtually unbroken by towns or farmland: they stretched to the horizon in a swathe of warm colours, almost completely deciduous: birch, beech, oak, chestnut, hickory, rowan and many others, but the stars of the show were the sugar maples, points of day-glo yellow and orange scattered through the rest...

[Pub. Inspire Summer 2007]

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