New England really knows how to die.

img_6432New England really knows how to die.

I grew up in Texas where the leaves on the trees slowly, slowly, slowly change from green to boring brown, maybe with a tinge of yellow if you’re lucky. Summer sort of oozes into fall. There’s no big physical transition from one time of year to another;  just a subtle dulling of the landscape as the season wanes.

Seeing autumn foliage explode in Massachusetts was initially like witnessing an event on another planet. Even after 25 years living here, every fall stuns and delights me. Just when I think I can’t be amazed by another transition from warm to cool, I find myself, mouth agape, wandering my neighborhood as if I’m viewing it for the first time. And it’s being shown in Technicolor.

Maples and elms and crap apple trees nearly burst from green into into ochres and burgundies as if set alight. Overnight the yard is swirling with fiery red and yellow leaves, piled by the wind into drifts against the house. They huddle against the street curbs, cover the flowerbeds like rich tapestries.

Every time a fresh gust of air blows across the sky, it is made visible by a rain of delicate orange leaves and heard by the whoosh through leafy branches. Let go, let go, the wind seems to say, and the trees abide. Dry leaves, oval and round and palm-shaped and spiky, skitter across the road, as if in a rush to get somewhere.

I wonder if ticker tape parades were inspired by this natural celebration. As if the heavens let go an enormous fistful of confetti, the whole word is smattered with colorful leaves. It’s a big lovely mess.

img_6427I know this display is a warning of what’s to come — New England winter, neither colorful nor gentle, will soon enough strip the landscape bare, leaving the trees shiveringly naked and the view will be monochrome. But for now, like a kid, I kick the crimson leaves as I walk the dogs, and look up to the bright blue sky full of incredible eye candy, rejoicing in the gorgeous way of dying that only this region seems to know.

It’s so punk rock, New England, with its attitude: burn out, don’t fade away.

Morning Glory

morninggloryI am not a morning person. But I have dogs, so even on weekends I am up by seven or so in order to take them out. Often, I am still wearing pajamas when I leash up the pups, so I sneak off the front porch to the side of house where the neighbors can’t see us. There we find an enormous tangle of bright fuchsia morning glories that are wide awake.

Each year, this cheerful crowd reseeds itself and multiplies like proverbial rabbits. I have nothing to do with it, which is part of why I love them. These flowers, with their delicate trumpeting blossoms, reemerge heartily after even the worst winters to proliferate along the path that runs from the porch to the back yard.

Tiny green double-leaved sprouts emerge slowly in the spring, trembling in the chilly breeze, seeming timid, but really just gearing up. The plants grow courageous with each day’s increasing sunlight, rapidly adding a multitude of leaves and blooms along their tentacle-like vines.

Soon they need a trellis for support, and then they overshoot that, grabbing onto the brick wall of the house with their small green hands. One long stem moves sideways to the wooden steps and uses the slightest splinters to anchor itself. In no time, it has reached the top of the stairs. Other vines have, almost parasitically, taken over the basil plants. Initially, I trained them away, carefully unwinding their strands, but they were more driven than me. Now the herbs look like drag queens in their heavy pink fineries.

Even the rose is sporting incongruous flowers, a vine having woven its way around and around and around the tallest stem, the thorns causing no disruption whatsoever as it climbed. The tomato has fought bravely against this clingy friend, but to no avail. He is smothered in unwanted, albeit cheerful, attention.

morningglorydrainThis year, a morning glory seed managed to find its way past the house and into the street, where it landed in the storm drain. Embedding itself in a mess of fallen leaves, it found enough nourishment and moisture to throw a coiling vine over the curb like a lifeline and present its happy blushing faces to the side-walkers.

Each afternoon, the petals close in on themselves, suddenly shy, twisting themselves into snug cocoons, ready for the same nap I am. Overnight, they regain energy and, at dawn, each magenta mouth shouts again toward the sun.


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