“To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson
I drive along one of the pretty meandering backroads of Cottage Country through the warm enchantment of a sunny afternoon, passing through rock-cuts of pink granite, dipping down through valley bottoms and alongside leaden lakes now quiet after the summer rush. The road flings itself around the shoulders of hills, dips and rises, and carries on through a quiet forest. I drive in solitude, thinking that here, in Autumn, I have this roadway all to myself.
The road crosses a bridge, climbs a small hill and then straightens along the side of an open valley. I am surprised to see a tour bus pulled over where the shoulder widens, and a group of people standing gaping off across the wide expanse. They have their cameras out and arrange themselves in small groups taking photos, with the far hillside as a backdrop. At first I wonder what they see, and slow to look for a moose or bear. I see nothing but a valley and distant knoll.
I slowly manoeuver around them, shake my head and carry on, a little annoyed that this herd of tourists has invaded by quiet excursion. The road climbs a little higher and then snakes through a wide meadow. Suddenly, I see it. The late afternoon sun throws its enriching light over the hillside. An explosion of colour; vivid reds and vibrant oranges, mixed with golds, greens, burgundies and yellows, overpowers the senses.
This kaleidoscopic display butts up against a rocky escarpment, and sweeps down to the narrow bay of a Muskoka lake. Here the colours are mirrored in the shimmering royal blue of the water. It is like a painting. The view is awe-inspiring. I pull off to the side and grab my camera. The bus chugs past and I see smiling faces turned my way, much nicer than the slightly annoyed look I had so recently given them. I wave, a salute, and a thank you for helping me to see.
Sometimes we can get a little complacent about the beauty of the world around us. The charm and wildness of our surroundings becomes so commonplace that we lose our ability to see. We would rather find the spectacular when we go looking for it, in the far-away places we visit, but we neglect it right under our noses.
I am on my way to the cottage. It is time to close the place for winter. I had set out on my journey in kind of a sullen mood, but the big views of rock, blue-green lakes and the resplendent colours of the forest have done their work. I know when I arrive at the lake and trek up the path to the cabin, I will enjoy the thick, vibrant carpet that cushions my steps. I will look skyward at the geese flying south. There will be the wonderful smells and textures of the fall-cured grasses and the slightly decaying odour of fallen leaves. In the evening there will be the smoky smell of the woodstove and the soft glow of the lamp light. Perhaps the cold, crisp night sky will welcome me with a magnificent display of stars, or even the northern lights. Muskoka in fall is a beautiful place in the world, as the busload of tourists I passed well knew.
I was not looking forward to this trip to the cottage, but now Autumn has cast its spell, and I am thankful.
Why Leaves Change Colour
Trees turn into an impressive array of colours in autumn as a result of the chlorophyll disappearing from their leaves. Chlorophyll is the pigment in trees that gives leaves their green colour, and it plays a vital role in photosynthesis, a process that turns light energy into food (sugar) for the tree. As winter approaches, photosynthesis stops in deciduous trees because there is not enough available water or light, and chlorophyll disappears from the leaves. As the chlorophyll disappears, the other pigments already in the leaves become visible. Carotenoids, xanthophylls and anthocyanins are responsible for the brilliant yellow, orange, red, purple and crimson colours in the leaves. Now you know. I just think it is pretty!
A few blustery days will blow the majority of leaves from the trees where they will decompose and return valuable nutrients to the soil, turning them into humus and other soil components necessary for plants to grow. So don’t get rid of them at the cottage. At the very least, rake them into the trees and let them do their work.
Fall Colour Report: www.ontariotravel.net/publications/fallcolourreport.pdf