Anne Horrigan Geary: Savor the color of the Berkshire leaves

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DALTON — Once upon a time, there were nothing but green trees in the forest. Beautiful trees to be sure, but one color only. There were tall trees and short trees, evergreen and deciduous, old and new trees; but they were all green. Some were shaded lighter and darker, some had round leaves and some had pointed leaves; but they were all green.

Then, something magical happened. As the days shortened and the temperatures cooled, the leaves on the deciduous trees were ruffled by nippy breezes, and began their happy dance. Wakened out of their green slumber, they slowly began to change. Norway maples started to shine like the sun, and sugar maples were hung with a thousand stoplight-red leaves. Vibrant oranges and soft purples began to crowd the hillsides while the remaining deep green of the towering evergreens served to heighten the display with their contrasting color.

Waves of color flowed down steep hillsides and sentinels of color guarded roadsides and driveways. Gray stone walls drew a sharp perimeter around pastures of gold and silver. Swathes of goldenrod and bittersweet vines surrounded the trees and embraced them. Flocks of migrating birds and butterflies seemed reluctant to abandon the spectacle.

Sometimes we lucky locals take all this splendor for granted; but it doesn't take long to reawaken to the lure of the gorgeous glens and gullies. Just watch a busload of leaf-peepers exiting their coach, and see their visages transformed as they land amid a valley view on the Mohawk Trail. They are gobsmacked, and can't get the cameras and cellphones focused fast enough.

I like my foliage views up close and personal, beginning each day by staring at the three towers of color in my yard. An ash and two maples paint the sky with color, and the dozens of shrubs add subtle shades beneath. Some of the green and yellow oval leaves of the ornamental crabapple are drifting down, revealing small clusters of red berries. A female cardinal hops along the rafters of the pergola, searching amid the yellowing leaves for some of the shriveled grapes. Assorted yellow leaves fill the birdbaths, and need to be swept out when they are refilled.

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Beyond the yard, we have distant mountain views (or DMVs as I call them) to the south and the north. Across the street is the vantage point of rolling golf course vistas, seen over the putting green. Everywhere I look there are layers upon layers of saturated color, wrapping me in my own spectacular crazy-quilt of every hue and tone.

Because this foliage phenomenon is short-lived, we can't miss a day without taking the long way home, wending our way through narrow lanes and gravel paths of loveliness. Then find a small body of water, and watch the rippling reflection of the trees on the surface. One of our favorite places to stop with a cup of coffee or sweet treat from Lakeview Orchard is the causeway on Cheshire Lake. Picnic tables are provided, as well as piers for fishing. The sight of blue sky over the darker water, surrounded by hills of color is phenomenal. Ducks occasionally quack their approval, and gulls squawk too.

Sometimes I bring a few leaves home, pressing them between two sheets of waxed paper to preserve them. On occasion, I trace a few and cut out the shapes to use for applique templates for table runners. Of course, the memory card in the camera is full of foliage views, and some become the centerpiece for notecards and other artwork.

The critical thing is to lose yourself in the color of the surrounding trees. Soak it up in every pore. Before we know it, the dominant colors on the hilltops will fade to white, and we will have a blank slate upon which to tell another tale.

Anne Horrigan Geary is a regular Eagle contributor.


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