MARTHA SEZ: ‘I suggest you visit the Keene landfill transfer station … It’s possibly the best view in town.’
Every year, from this time right up until Columbus Day, I fret about peak leaf. For those unfamiliar with northern climes, the term “peak leaf” describes the all too brief moment in autumn when leaves are most colorful. Here in the Adirondacks, the yellows, reds and oranges of maples and other deciduous trees, contrasting with the dark green of conifers on hills and mountains provide a gorgeous scenic backdrop to our towns and villages.
People travel from near and far to view the annual spectacle of peak leaf, giving rise to the term “leaf peeper,” usually used in the plural, as in “Leaf peepers are causing traffic accidents by not looking where they’re going.” It is generally assumed that leaf peepers are not from here. In fact, though, I would say that anyone could be distracted by the vast panorama of scenic beauty all around us during peak leaf. (I myself am a leaf peeper.) Some years, however — and you will hear all manner of reasons for this phenomenon, folkloric, scientific and sort-of-scientific — leaf season is sadly lacking in drama. The colors are simply not up to our standards. Rather than the deep crimsons, flaming yellows and nearly fluorescent scarlets of our most spectacular peak leaf seasons, we see maple leaves drying up, turning brown and blowing away, while any leaves that do change color look muted and dull.
So, yes, as I mentioned, I do worry every year as I look forward to peak leaf, and every year I take this anxiety as a prime example of the uselessness of ruminating over situations over which I have absolutely no control.
This year, my daughter, Molly, who is teaching school in Ojai, California, where they don’t have a proper peak leaf season, asked me to send her some colored leaves to show the little students in her classroom.
All of those years when Molly was forced to slump down in her seat willing herself invisible while her mom, having pulled the car to the side of the road, was tromping through the underbrush procuring various forms of flora — elderberries, wildflowers, pinecones, acorns, you name it — has at least this payoff. My foraging proclivities have finally come in handy.
I don’t blame teenage Molly for not wanting to be seen with her batty mom as she plucked the local herbiage, perhaps at times illegally. Mothers are embarrassing enough at the best of times; and in olden days I might have been branded as a witch out collecting herbs for potions.
It is not yet peak leaf. The good news is that so far the colors are truly phenomenal. If you, like me, tend to worry about things you can’t change, like for instance peak leaf, please set your mind to rest on this score. I predict a classic, picture-postcard-perfect leaf season this fall, and I suggest you visit the Keene landfill transfer station, world’s most scenic dump. It’s possibly the best view in town.
Would-be leaf peepers come to visit the Adirondacks over Columbus Day. It’s celebrated on the second Monday in October, giving many people a three-day weekend. I say “would-be leaf peepers” because unfortunately by the middle of October peak leaf has usually been over and done with for a week. The colors are still very nice, in a less gaudy, calm, muted, toned-down, lacklustre way. In fact, there are no doubt those individuals whose delicate sensibilities cause them to prefer the pleasing post-peak leaf palette as more tasteful and raffin.
Then, pretty soon we will have a big wind and rain storm that strips the trees bare of leaves, and Halloween will come, and let’s not think about winter right now, although I know some people love it.
Meanwhile, a friend of mine whose name I won’t mention for fear of reprisals against her, has told me about a neighbor of hers who somehow got ahold of one of those big electric road signs, which he uses to flash obnoxious and hateful political messages. This really gets her goat, although her husband says that she has to walk down her driveway and a little ways up the street in order to read the neighbor’s message of the day. Still.
“I have two pet rocks,” my friend told me. “One has ““PEACE” painted on it, and the other one says “LOVE.” Pretty soon I’m going to throw those rocks right through his picture window.”
These are difficult times. Let’s all hope for the best.
Have a good week.
(Martha Allen lives in Keene Valley. She has been writing for the News for more than 20 years.)