Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The color of autumn

I always feel sentimental in the fall. I have always claimed spring as my favorite season; I love the beautiful colors, the budding trees, new growth, sweet birdsongs. It doesn't hurt that my birthday falls right at the official start of spring (technically it's still in winter, but the first daffodils and tulips always forget to check the calendar). But fall has always been so precious to me.

Autumn historically has marked big changes in my life: the start of the school year, moving here to St. Louis for college at Wash U, buying our first house. With Charlotte's birthday in August, fall has marked big developmental steps for her as well--the end of sending bottles of breastmilk to daycare, moving her to a big-girl bed, and announcing the impending change from baby to big sister, giving up diapers. The cold winds of autumn, for me, sweep away decaying stages of my life, and the scent of dropping leaves always leaves me a little sad for the warm summer days that have fallen by the wayside.

The fall color this year seems more beautiful than in years past, and seems to be lingering longer. Maybe it's the warmer weather we've had, or the rain that hit at just the right point to sustain the trees a touch longer. Maybe it's just me, as I've been outside a lot more often during the day than in years past--this season of early nightfalls passes more quickly when you only see the sun on weekends. Here in the middle of november, there are green leaves still on many trees, and the rest are showing their most vibrant colors. Even our sad, the straggly sugar maple in our front yard, which normally fades from green to a rusty red-brown, boasts scarlet-tipped golden leaves this year.

Over the past week, I've driven from one end of the metro area to another several times along highway 40, and been able to savor its lively foliage for perhaps the last time. By the time it is reborn in a couple of years as the new I-64, I'm afraid that the beautiful tree scapes between Kingshighway and 270 will be replaced by towering concrete walls. The thought of those beautiful views being clearcut as the highway and interchagnes are rebuilt makes this fall's colorspray even more poignant.

Last night after bedtime, Charlotte crept quietly up to our bedroom door. She stood there in her pink footy pajamas with a shy, slightly upset, and very tired look on her face. She had dropped her baby bunny doll off the side of her bed and could not found it, and needed help, a hug, and to be tucked back into bed. Seeing her bright little face shining against the dark hallway behind her, I suddenly had a vision of her much taller and older standing in the same spot. Just like the fall color, the image made me sad, because when that day comes, she won't want us to pick her up and
cradle her on our shoulders, or carefully spread her Winnie the Poo blankets around her, tuck Baby Bunny and Glo Worm under her arm, and won't need us to blow her kisses from the doorway so she can sleep. Like the deep dark of the quickly approaching winter, that day is not as far away as I could hope it would stay.

P.S. I have not actually seen detailed plans for the highway reconstruction that show trees and shrubbery being removed during construction. But based on other projects around the area, and the increasing number of bald spots near current construction on the route, I can only assume we will see more of the same. But please don't take my opinions and fears for hard facts and set me up for some libel suit from MoDot on account of a little nostalgic rambling.

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