Fits of Autumnal Optimism

There’s not a lot of wood out there in the wood piles. Specifically, there’s this much:

I’ve recently taken to telling people that we have literally 17 sticks of dry wood for the winter. While that is only true in the Gen Z rendition of ‘literally’, it’s not far off.

Who are we kidding? It’s not just the Gen Z-ers; it’s us too. I’m not even sure what Generation I am, in fancy nomenclature, but I do know that we confuse ‘literally’ with ‘like’ plenty ourselves. Even while chiding the young-uns for their abuse of hyperbole.

(Because we can’t live in ignorance forever, it appears that I am a Xennial. I am part of that microgeneration that isn’t quite Gen X, bewildered by technology, but isn’t quite a Millennial, who never learned to read a map. Right on the cusp of Gen X and the Stampede of the Millennials, I live with a foot in both worlds. I’m the one who got my first email address in college, built my first website when dial-up was cutting-edge and beyond sexy, and for the life of me can’t remember how we found our way to any address anywhere before the internet. And yet I still long for the days when the only screen in my life required me to get up, walk across the room, and physically turn the knob on the set to switch from Mr. Ed to Mr. Rogers. So much makes sense now.)

So whatever. There’s literally a few more than 17, but not many. There’s enough for two, maybe three night’s fires. That is not enough for the whole of the winter.

So, long story short, Scott’s firing up the chainsaw today, hoping to multiply our 17, hang on… math… about 150-fold. I’m not sure that will happen, at least not today. I’m not honestly sure that will happen before the snow flies. If you know anyone with nice seasoned hardwood for sale by the very cheap cord around Colfax, you will let me know, won’t you?

Me, I’m trying to turn a cold around, and hoping that I’m on the uphill climb. No COVID, at least not according to the recent minimally invasive nasal swab, so that’s good. And with the literal 12 pounds of zinc I’ve ingested, along with the literal 19 gallons of honey lemon tea, I have reason to believe that I’ve beaten this one back with the aggressively-wielded sticks of homeopathy and good sense. We’ll see how the day progresses.

Things have been a little frosty around here about the time of the morning walk. Beautiful. Have I mentioned how much I adore the changing of the seasons?

Speaking of the changing of the seasons, though, I’m a bit dumbfounded. I’ve never seen such a confused canopy.

I’m sitting in my office looking out at a woods who is hesitant at best when it comes to changing colors. I hear climate change is to blame. Good job us. We’ve managed to befuddle even the trees who have always been quite good at their jobs. They don’t even know what they’re doing out there. It’s like we blindfolded them and spun them around, then scattered glass shards all around them.

According to the peak-projectors, those whose amazing job it is to track the fall colors and report to the rest of us how things are progressing, we’re at 80-100% around these parts. Damn near past peak. And yet the hills around my home are a nearly solid green. In my own yard, there is color, sure, but there is also a lot of hemming and hawing.

This guy out front is bypassing the draining of the chlorophyll altogether and his leaves are just straight-up browning and falling off. Yeah, there’s some yellow there, but nothing like the usual brilliance. He looks more like speckled alder than a maple. Blotchy brown and papery.

And in back, out the window, this guy is just starting, oblivious to the fact that he’s supposed to be almost done.

In his defense, he’s a young-un himself, and only last year did he even begin changing colors.

I guess he’s kind of like an Xennial, stuck between two generations, hanging onto the coattails of the post-industrial age, and those trees who knew the old ways of predictable seasons, and the pre-apocalyptic, those who can’t remember what it was like to know what was coming.

Poor guy.

And this guy, well, he’s been having a rough couple of years. He’s still clinging to leaves from two, maybe three years ago.

We were chalking it up to oak wilt, as there is a history on this land, but now I’m wondering if climate change may be his primary nemesis. Maybe he’s just the sensitive type, the canary in the coal mine, the one who lost his way a couple of years before the rest.

He’s towering over that young crimson maple, the old not even sure how to go about teaching the young. Sigh.

And while we’re talking about colors, and all these poor trees that are so confused that they’re throwing a wrench into the usual autumnal kodachrome show, I’m wondering what the biological reason is for all the color in the first place.

I’ve spent a lot of time deep in Robin Wall Kimmerer lately, and while I love the Native wisdom that tells us all about what the plants have to give to us (ie the fireworks of fall, as a gift and a lesson in awe), I know that that is not the whole story. Surely the trees don’t go to all that trouble just to please the eyes of the humans.

I’m thankful that they do, for sure, but what’s in it for them? Why not just brown and drop, like the maple in the front yard is tending towards this year? What’s the story there? What’s with the exuberant show of life right before death? Nature often (always?) has a gift to be given, if only we can open our busy frittering palms to receive it, but that’s not the whole story. She also always a biological imperative to what she does. So what is it with the colors?

I wonder if it is inextricably tied up with the gift. Maybe the show truly is the only thing. Maybe it’s all about dropping awe and splendor in our laps, as a gift, yes, but also in hopes of inspiration. Inspiration towards creation, inspiration towards responsibility. Inspiration towards camaraderie.Maybe the colors really are just a love letter. Trees to humans. We love you. Please take care of us.

I suspect there’s something a little harder in the science, but I don’t know. Maybe I’ll do a little research.

And maybe I won’t. Sometimes the question is enough.

If you need me, I’ll be out there watching the colors, no matter how confused, because I don’t know how much longer that show will be playing,

9 thoughts on “Fits of Autumnal Optimism

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    1. I KNOW! We’re in a rough spot, for sure! There’s actually a cord or two out there besides the pictured sticks, but it won’t be ready until next year at least! Poor guy spent all his energy last year working on one big-arse oak, one that’s going to take a bit longer to season!

      So, Mainer, how close are you to Mount Desert Island? The youngest is out there going to college.

      Liked by 1 person

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