It’s already late September, and a few eager leaves are starting to turn. The trees with their old, mostly green leaves look ratty: the oak tree outside my office at Framingham State, for instance, is so shabby, it’s difficult to find a leaf on it that isn’t insect-eaten and worn. It feels like nature is slyly shutting down, like when you linger late at a restaurant and the waiters start dimming the lights and putting chairs on the tables. Please, feel free to finish your meal at your leisure, they insist, but it’s clear they’re closing up shop.
There’s something about the light in late September, when it acquires a particular angle and color. The light this afternoon looked antique, like something leaning from gold toward bronze, a tarnished time. Already the days are noticeably shorter, and I wonder well ahead of time how we’ll weather another winter, starved for light. On brisk, brilliant, and deep-blue skied days like today, I resolve to absorb as much light as possible, while I still can.
Is this the reason why autumn leaves are so precious, their brilliance and color filling in for sunlight lost? Right when sunlight starts to lean deep toward the twilight of the year, the turning trees switch on like emergency beacons, vanishing chlorophyll unveiling long-hidden fires. In summer, the sun illuminates our lives; in the fall, we rely on leaves. In winter, fresh snow will reflect what little light there is, then we’ll round the corner into spring, when chlorophyll itself will ignite every green fuze: the old year renewed.