Thursday October 4, 2012

My friend Amy and her son, a small blond boy in green frog boots and a yellow slicker, scouted for Macoun apples. I held her umbrella, tipping it between branches. And we wished we were three feet taller.

The wind or eager hands had gotten here before us, and brilliant red apples -- Imperial Gala, Liberty Mac, Honeycrisp, Cortland, Macoun -- hung at the tops of the trees, where even Nate, sitting on Amy’s shoulders, couldn’t reach them.

Within half an hour we had gathered half a bushel of apples in Lakeview Orchard. We came back grinning. David and Judy Jurczak at Lakeview are generous, and they smiled to see us come dripping inside for fresh cider doughuts.

But we were elated. The damp, sweet air and the pepper-red maple across the road made us as glad as a not-quite-2-year-old catching sight of a tractor.

When I was Nate’s age, my mom took me to the farm stand down the street to pick out apples. She took me into the woods and showed me pipsissewa, tamerack, turkey feather mushrooms (and she kept telling me their names, so that I still remember some of them, but not so many as she does.)

When I was a little older, she showed me how to dig up ground nuts and where to find beech burrs. The squirrels had gotten most of the beech nuts, so we could not roast them for coffee, but we made tea from sassafrass shoots.


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My parents have both taught me a love of the land and a responsibility to it, and while my dad has taught me to row a canoe and to plant pole beans and sweet corn, my mom has taught me her respect for the people who have lived here since long before my Scots, Irish, Welsh and English family disembarked -- and live here now.

Mohican, Kanien’keháka (Mohawk), Narragansett, Mi’kmaq, Pocumtuck once built hunting camps in these hills and walked here as the trees changed color. I am glad to know they still do.

I want to share these hills in fall with everyone who will feel the beauty of them -- like Hal Borland, novelist and longtime columnist for The Eagle and the New York Times, who looked up the mountainside to see "a dazzle of color, yellow-green, corn yellow, lucent tan, berry-pink, wine-red, even a kind of amethystine purple ... and with a lower fringe of sumac, crimson and yellow and orange."

And then he wrote: "If I could accurately describe even one tree in color today, my description would be outdated by tomorrow noon. In other years I have heard people say ‘I went up last weekend and saw the color in the Berkshires.’ And I have thought: You only saw last weekend’s color. It’s different today, and it will be still different tomorrow."