October 16, 2008

LEAF-PEEPING: Autumn Leaves


LEAF-PEEPING: Autumn Leaves

     “Are you going to peek at the fall leaves?”
     This was the first question most persons asked when they learned my husband Monte and I were traveling to New England in September.
     “No,” was my response. “I can see fall leaves just sitting on my patio at home. Why would I travel so far just to leaf-peep?”
     Actually, we traveled from Newport, Rhode Island to Frenchman Bay, Maine to do research, visit with friends and family, resolve issues in three cemeteries, and, finally, just to “vacate.” We—or rather I, who grew up on Seabrook, Hampton, Wallis Sands, and York beaches—thoroughly enjoyed just sitting on the rocks and reflecting on the water, photographing beach scenes, and dodging or body-surfing waves high-surf waves. Leaf-peeping just wasn’t high on my agenda.
     Traveling into Downeast Maine, and later, driving through the Green Mountains and White Mountains at the end of September as we returned home, we enjoyed being among the earliest leaf-peepers. I took numerous photos of gold and red-leafed trees while driving along the road (the sports setting on my camera allows me to take good photos out the car window as we are moving), each time laughingly saying to my husband that these photos were to appease those persons who asked the fall-leaf question. (see photo at: )
     It’s now mid-October in Southwestern, Pennsylvania. I just participated in Ligonier Days, an annual weekend of crafts, parades, and other activities. This year the theme was the 250th anniversary of Ligonier Valley, and our writers group published a commemorative booklet in the area’s honor. I sat at a table outside a local bookstore for several hours during the weekend. There was beautiful weather, and the leaves were spectacular, coloring the hills and roadsides in gold, bronze, red and yellows, all accented by the evergreens growing alongside the leafy trees.

(see photos at:
     As I took time to practice photographing them with my new camera, I thought about how the presence of chlorophyll camouflaged the brilliant colors, keeping them green all summer. When the chlorophyll no longer is produced, the true colors burst through, revealing their true identity, which is considered far more attractive to many persons, as evidenced by the number of persons who travel miles to leaf-peep at fall leaves. Does anyone ever travel those distances to peep at the summer’s highly productive, but somewhat dull, green leaves?
     My musings continued, and I thought about how many persons camouflage themselves with acceptable behavior. But when their “chlorophyll” disappears, their behavior becomes more colorful. For example, how much attention does the “good” behavior bring, while the worst behavior brings plenty of attention? Yet, when the colorful behavior happens, the person ultimately “falls,” like the leaf that falls off the tree after it shows its true colors.
     As a writer, we know that the “green,” though nice and pleasant, is not where the story is. Our readers require the “color” of conflict. Green just doesn’t cut it. The more color the better—and when the leaves fall, let the wind gusts whip them about, rather than letting them float softly to the ground. It will keep the attention of the readers.
     The season of color will pass, winter is coming fast. But for these few weeks, please, along with me, photograph nature’s leaf pallet if you can, write about it if you will, but please, at the very least, enjoy peeping at it—wherever you are…










  1. From the Buffalo News, Sept, 28, 2008, Nature Watch by Gerry Rising: In her delightful book, “Red Oaks and Black Birches,” REbecca Rupp explains why leaves change color and then fall.
    Shortened days and cooler nights encourage the formation of a kind of tourniquet where each leaf stem is attached to its branch. This cuts off the leaf’s source of water and minerals, causing in turn the degradation and final disappearance of chlorophyll, the source of the leaf’s green coloration. All summer that overwhelming green has masked the colors of other molecules, but now those colors come to the foreground. “The yellows and oranges of birches, sycamores and sugar maples,” she says, “are due to carotenoids, teh same cheerful molecules that color carrots, corn, egg yolks and daffodils. Browns also may result from carotenoids or from tannins. Crimsons, scarlets and purples are due to anthocyanins, which also color red cabbages, red roses and purple irises.”
    Finally, that same tourniquet reduces the grasp of the leaf stem until the wind carries the leaf away, leaving a wound where it was attached to its branch. The tree quickly plugs that wound with a cork leaf scar to protect itself from water loss.

    Comment by carolyncholland — October 17, 2008 @ 3:33 am | Reply

  2. In cleaning up papers around my house today, i found an AARP issue from June, this year (mind you, this is the end of October!). I checked the travel section which advertised “Blazes of Glory” tours, two to New England. The blazes of glory were the “dazzling autumn tours” that illuminate teh NOrtheast’s flaming foliabe!”
    Well, I did see some gorgeous trees as we drove along the roadways. However, I’ve seen spectacular foliage within five miles of my home. To be a “leaf-peeper” at the cost of $3.350 to me seems outrageous. There is much more to New England—beaches, baches, waves, surf, salt water, light houses—things that set New England apart from the rest of the country. Leaves just don’t do it for me!

    Comment by carolyncholland — October 24, 2008 @ 2:14 am | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

What is your opinion?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: