At Eastford, CT
So magnificent is the autumn foliage spectacle in New England that writers have struggled for centuries to capture its essence in words.
The brilliant leaf colors of October are a kind of eastern equivalent to the Grand Canyon, another well-documented challenge for writers. To be sure, the fall color in Connecticut is ephemeral, albeit annual, lasting only a matter of weeks, while the Grand Canyon is a rock-solid, enduring expression of the centuries.
But each is a grand spectacle in its own way.
Of the Grand Canyon, the great naturalist and author John Muir, a master of descriptive prose, wrote in 1902 that “it is impossible to conceive what the canon is, or what impression it makes, from descriptions or pictures, however good.”
Henry David Thoreau, one of the towering figures of American literature, and another of the great descriptive nature writers, confided to his journal on an October day in the mid-19th Century that the southern New England fall color was so rich in hues as to be exasperating. “How often we find ourselves using ineffectually words which merely indicate faintly our good intentions, giving them in our despair a terminal twist toward our mark – such as reddish, yellowish, purplish, etc. We cannot make a hue of words, for they are not to be compounded like colors.. . .”
There is a lesson here. Enjoy the many literary descriptions of the fall color that we have, many of them evocative, even eloquent. Enjoy the colorful photos in the magazines and newspapers, too. But – always – get outdoors and take in the color for yourself. There is nothing like the real thing.
With that said, I headed out to the hills of northeastern Connecticut this morning to hike and poke around in what are some of the most rural towns in the state. The foliage color was terrific, at its peak, as it is these days in northern Litchfield County in the northwest corner.
Peak foliage color in much of the central part of the state is due within the next four or five days. The coast, as always, will be a bit later.
I hiked the morning in the Yale Forest on a day with a clear, deep blue sky, ideal for left peeping with the sun practically igniting the woodlands with color. The birch and hickory leaves are almost every shade of yellow, the red maples are brilliant scarlet and fluttering to the ground everywhere, the ashes have already turned that purplish-bluish color that is such a nice addition to the woodland mosaic. The sugar maples, the quintessential fall foliage tree of New England with leaves that range from deep red to bright orange to yellow and often a mix of all three, are exploding with color.
The spectacle won’t last. Don’t miss it.