Fall for real
My eyes are constantly scanning the streets, staring deeply at every tree. Trying to memorize them exactly as they are during this time of year. Fall is fleeting in Chicago. I imagine many people feel this way in climate zones similar to mine. Every day looks different.
We don’t get the thick, rich patchwork of New England color. Or Colorado’s yellow Aspen explosion. But fall still comes here. Trees that stood proud and green for months — bold and persistent in their aliveness — suddenly burst into plum, gold, rust. And the next day, the leaves are gone, the trees’ newly bared limbs reaching, silhouetted against a sharp sky. The city is bare again. You can see the siding and the concrete and the power lines and all the crumbling infrastructure that’s been camouflaged since May. As spring is a season of awakening, fall is the season of retreat. Both periods of transition, but in fall, the movement is toward silence, sparseness, rest. Some like to say it’s the time for turning inward. For plant lovers, it’s a bit of a sad goodbye.
But of course, fall is unmistakably beautiful. Trees turn, in as many different ways as there are trees. Some glow from the crown downward, seemingly warmed by months of strong summer sun. Others begin to yellow from underneath, glittering only for those who remember to look up. A few trees become color; their neon leaves forming a giant mass of a single hue. Throughout Chicago, the colors are a random confetti. Leaf edges burn, the color bleeding inward until the entire thing flashes red. And then falls. The young oak outside of my living room window crisped up around August and went straight from green to ashy brown. The color drained long ago, but even now the leaves are holding on. Shivering in the wind. Just like me.
This is the time of year when the trees outsmart us. These beautiful giants, usually so slow to change, can’t keep still. Leaves fly and fall and crunch. Shadows stretch. The sun sets. It all feels so quick, and one day you look up and it’s suddenly winter.
But not yet. For now, at least for a little while, we still have color.