The first signs of fall actually show up sometime during the third week in August. There’s a night when suddenly the smell of woodstoves laces the air. The next morning, you wake to a chill that calls for a long-sleeved shirt or close-toed shoes. For us in Maine, it’s a bittersweet shift — faint, but undeniable. As you drive the still–visitor-congested roads, maybe prepping for back-to-school time, you notice the tree with one branch full of bright-red leaves. Spend enough time here, and you come to know which trees go first, the turncoats quickest to betray us in the waning summer. You tell yourself, hey, those trees turn early every year, summer still has plenty of time left. Doesn’t it?
I don’t anticipate any other season the way I do the fall. All my senses are on standby, seeking out signs of the summer’s passing. Autumn is my favorite season, despite (or maybe because of?) the inevitable sense of loss that comes with it, grief for another summer sped by too fast. It’s harder to ignore the passing of time during this transitional moment, of another year ticking by.
In the third week of August this year, a generous friend took me up in his floatplane over Moosehead Lake. The forest tapestry sprawled out beneath us as we flew over Kineo, with Katahdin looming grandly in the distance. Looking out, I zeroed in on those handfuls of trees that had begun to turn, specks of red in a sea of green. All I could think was how, over the next few months, this whole verdant blanket was going to succumb — leaf by leaf, tree by tree.
The flip side of anticipation, of course, is how quickly an anticipated event passes you by. Fall is no exception. Waiting for peak foliage is like waiting for a cool wave to hit your beach-burned feet — the moment arrives and passes with no regard for our desire to stop and wallow in it. There’s no time to waste.
It’s with that carpe diem spirit that we compiled our “Ultimate Fall” feature this month. At a glance, it’s a lot of eye candy, but all senses should be employed to enjoy this finest of seasons in Maine: Taste the hot cider donuts. Perfect the pressure needed to pluck an apple from the tree. Enjoy the sweet smell of the orchard. Feel the heft of the pumpkins as you select just the right one for carving. Hear the shrieks of kids as they run through the corn maze. And most importantly, witness the slow, steady rainbow-ing of even just one nearby tree — maybe that small, otherwise unremarkable one perched outside your kitchen window.
I can promise you, that ultimate fall moment won’t last long. Stop what you’re doing and enjoy it, taking notice of each leaf. Before you know it, the snow will be piling up, and another cycle around the sun will be underway. — Kathleen Fleury[/item]