Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pictured: October 9?, 2007, Bath County, Va.


You know how Seasonal Decor -- tiny banners to stake into the ground by your suburban mailbox, tchotkes to put on the sideboard, the things grade-school teachers put up to cue in students on the month -- assigns yellow and orange leaves to September? Why in the world is that? Admiring the green trees all around me as I drift about town this month, I vaguely imagined it was more of the Northeast's hegemony over the US's view of itself: orange leaves to kick walking to school on the first day back, snow at Christmas, new spring flowers in May, etc. But I have located shocking new evidence that suggests that only the remotest bits of New England (and the far West) hit peak color as early as September! (That's a weather.com map; the one I read was different, but the gist, of course, was the same. I'll just be darned if I can find the other.) Nearly all of us see green leaves all September long!

Of course, I exaggerate a touch. After a dry summer, certain Virginia trees, like tulip poplars, will turn yellow in August; and decorative sugar maples started to show colors a few days ago. But -- most of the first half of September, you could have gone swimming, too. As a Virginian, the idea of equating September with sweaters, scuffling through leaves, and chilly nights misses the mark.

You know what doesn't miss the mark? Mountain Day at Mount Holyoke College! Just seeing the words in my in box (well, on Facebook, this year) raises my spirits, even though I still have to report to work. To celebrate, my walking buddy and I headed to Maymont. Walking up the hill by the bison is sort of like climbing Mount Holyoke, right?

And speaking of The Mountain (as we said at school), I have been thinking about how nineteenth century tourists knew it and the Mountain House well -- as well as Niagara Falls, says a speaker in this Convocation video. Yet now it's an unknown and a quaint bit of history.

And speaking of Niagara Falls, more than once, I have heard voices in "The National Parks" assert that various founding figures wanted to avoid the over-commercialization of the newly protected places -- to be sure that "what happened to Niagara Falls doesn't happen here." Mt. Holyoke, once as well known as Niagara, is now a mild-mannered state park (except today, when it's swarming with students!); Niagara, considered in the nineteenth century too tacky, remains, ah, busy and developed in the, um, best capitalist way. Maybe the lesson is that setting aside land works; certainly my advice for the day is get outside and enjoy autumn, whatever color the leaves are where you live!

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