“Every leaf speaks bliss to me – fluttering from the autumn tree.” – Emily Bronte
Walking along my Vermont gravel road the other day, I was focused on the leaves that had fallen to the ground lining the shoulder of the road and carpeting the forest. As we reached peak season this year and began the slide towards that awkward in-between space between fall and winter, rain and steady winds knocked the leaves off the trees prematurely. At first I was disappointed that I had missed “peak” here in central Vermont. We were on Lake Champlain enjoying autumn there and arrived back home to bare ash trees and diminished color in other tree species.
As a child growing up on the grounds of Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, I remember the fun we had each autumn when the leaves started falling. We lived in an area of employee housing called Red Lion Row. It consisted of about 15 houses occupying land just north of the gardens. A large field and wooded area separated us from the public areas of Longwood. Many of the employees planted vegetable gardens in the field and as kids we roamed the woods and, often the gardens, unattended and free to explore. We used to ride our bikes to the edge of the woods near the gardens and hide them in the towering rhododendrons near what is now the Terrace Restaurant. From there, we rambled around the grounds and enjoyed a playground of formal gardens and fountains – oblivious to the tourists. On hot summer days, we would bravely sneak into the fountains to cool off!
I loved growing up in Longwood and on “the row.” It was a small, tight-knit, multi-generational community. In the fall, as the leaves began to drop, we would rake them up into huge piles – diving into them and throwing them up in the air – letting them shower down upon us. One of my favorite pastimes involved using the leaves to design floor plans for houses. I was in elementary school when we lived there but my creative design inclinations were already forming. Using a rake, I would arrange the leaves into “walls” and create a plan view of a house complete with a kitchen, living room, bedrooms, bath, etc. The beauty of this was the ease with which I could change a “wall” or add a “room.” I have a vivid memory of standing back and critically admiring my design. So, I guess you could say my desire to design things began with leaves! Hence, my fascination with them today!
Enjoy the photos of my immediate Vermont surroundings this fall. Even though peak season has passed, there is still beauty in the leaves!
My daily walk takes me past some interesting landmarks. Vermont is dotted with small, family-centered and local cemeteries that are often on less-traveled back roads and overgrown logging trails. Up the road from my home is an example of one of those cemeteries. I love to wander around and read the grave markers imagining their lives on the hill way back then. While some of these cemeteries are no longer maintained, a local family keeps this one mowed and stones are repaired as needed.
We typically think of autumn as the end of the flowering season but close observation reveals those late blooming flowers, grasses and fruits can be just as remarkable as mid-summer blossoms. In my garden, I’m enjoying late-season sedum, phlox, witchhazel, purple coneflower, switchgrass and red winterberry fruits. Nature is providing vivid color from asters and goldenrods growing in the fields and along the roadsides.
When I was homeschooling my younger son during his mid-elementary years, we had the freedom to embark on a Fall road trip to visit some relatives in Pennsylvania. On our way back home, we stopped at a rest area on Interstate 84 near Scranton. The rest area was shaded by massive oak trees and as we wandered around admiring these impressive giants, we noticed an enormous amount of acorns on the ground. An idea was quickly formulated to surprise my husband with these precious seeds. We grabbed a bag from the car and scooped up as many as we could. This exercise became a “impromptu” science lesson on the life cycle of an acorn!
Oak trees do not grow naturally in our microclimate in Vermont. They are more prevalent along the warmer bodies of water near Lake Champlain and the Connecticut River valley. They are hardy here, however, and our love of oak trees (derived from growing up in Pennsylvania) has not diminished since moving to Vermont. We planted the acorns back in Vermont and now have some oak trees on our property to enjoy! Several years ago, we transplanted two of the white oaks to our back yard. I call them the “twin oaks” and they are now in excess of 20 feet tall and rendering a beautiful burgundy Fall color.
I hope you were entertained by this recent photographic journey highlighting Fall in Vermont – and the inclusion of the memories it evokes of the past.