Foliage Season is Upon Us...

By Will Baker

Autumn is a special time in the mountains and valleys of Vermont, and I suspect in the spirits of most of the people here. The leaves are already changing color, and some of the more sheltered locations have already experienced frost. And in the mornings now, clouds lay low in the mountain valleys until the sunshine burns them off. It has been a dry growing season, yet the corn is high and the apple trees hang low, laden with fruit. But based on a chat that I had recently with a farmer friend of mine, I know that because of the lack of rain there had been at least one less cutting of hay this year that normally would have occurred. But that is okay. The harvest approaches: a time of plenty.

Without fail, every autumn I experience a sense of restlessness. Yet it is a different sort of feeling compared to that which I experience nearly every spring, when after months of winter darkness life bursts forth, taking me with it. No, the feeling I have each fall is one of needing to prepare for the onset of winter, and to a lesser degree, wanderlust. And what a marvelous place in which to experience this; the countryside fairly pulses with activity, human and animal. Although the autumnal equinox is a couple of weeks away, it is autumn in Vermont.

"Foliage Season" is nearly upon us. This is the time of year when the Green Mountains transform themselves in a spectacular display of colors. There was some talk that this year, due to the lack of normal rainfall, the colors might not be as impressive as during a normal year. However this does not seem to be the case. On my way into the office this morning I observed lovely mountain views: reds, yellows, and oranges all golden. Nature’s pallet will not disappoint us this year. And that is a good thing. Tens of thousands of people will visit Vermont on their annual pilgrimage to enjoy this show. Many of these folks return year after year, staying in the same inns that they discovered years ago. It seems to me that for these folks this Vermont experience might be a healing one, a time to break away from their routines and to refresh their hearts as they bask in the beauty that is all about them. Therefore I am glad that this year their annual autumn rite will not be less than what they had hoped for.

Of course the local folks will enjoy the foliage as well, and feel blest to have it as a part of their normal routines. For a few weeks, folks having to commute will have their time in the car transformed into something that they can look forward to. And the farmers and trades-people that work outdoors will experience a similar change of perspective. There is no getting around it. When confronted by such natural beauty one does not come away unchanged.

During this time of year outdoor recreation takes on a whole new dimension. The mornings more often than not have a chill in the air. And although the daytime temperatures might approach eighty degrees, once the sun sets, a jacket is usually required. I look forward to late afternoon sails on the lake, surrounded by a broad expanse of fresh water, and mountains ablaze with color. Hiking, biking or really any outdoor activity seems to be enhanced by the added beauty and change in weather. This activity also provides some relief for the pensive restlessness that I feel every autumn.

Autumn in Vermont is all about getting things done and then waiting for winter. Be it the animals of the woodland, the farmers in the valleys or folks that drive off somewhere everyday to do their work. Winters here are long, cold and snowy. The summers are short, but very sweet, and much needs to be done before the snow falls. Some of the animals, such as bears, stay busy fattening themselves up for their long winter’s sleep. While others, such as the migratory birds prepare for their journeys. And others still busy themselves storing food for the winter. These animals have their human counterparts. Vermont hosts many folks who live here on a seasonal basis. And for these folks, autumn is their time to say good-bye. The farmers are like the beavers and squirrels, as they busily harvest and store away food. And the rest of us folks are busy around our homes. Now that summer is over we have a brief period to fill our pantries, make repairs and then wait for the snow.

Yes, this is a bittersweet time. We have fond memories of the summer just past, and we are blessed with beauty all around us. But we know that we are running out of time to get the things done that must get done. There is quiet beauty say, in new fallen snow or on a still, frozen lake. But that will come in due course. Everything has a season don’t you know.

 (Essay Collection)