By all reliable reports, we were supposed to have a pathetic foliage season. The dry summer had ruined the colors, or so we were told. The leaves would turn, the experts predicted, but the foliage would be pale and dusty looking, and everyone would be disappointed.
Well. That Didn’t Happen. We had the most spectacular landscapes I’ve seen in a long, long time. Every leaf looked as if it had auditioned for its part; the trees were on fire and simply lit up the air with scarlet, cadmium yellow and persimmon hues.
As I once heard a little girl say: “My eyes were amazed.”
After this brief and unexpectedly sensational run, the leaves drifted down into piles and the landscape took on that tatty late autumn look. And that seemed to be that.
That, it turns out, was another wrong assumption.
No one counted on the oaks as anything special, since they are not normally contenders in the fall beauty pageant. They are completely out of step with the other trees and don’t bother turning until they are good and ready, which is usually weeks after the red, yellow and orange peak. And when they finally do turn, they only take on a flat brown or, at best, a dull red. A few renegades might try for some gold, but not many. The turning of the oaks is all generally very ho hum and overlooked.
Mostly we just complain about them. By the time they turn, we have already raked the yard several times and there they all are, still hanging on, preventing us from putting the rakes in storage and nursing our blisters.
My oaks are famous for waiting until there is snow in the air before dropping in deep drifts that then have to be gathered up in a race against the oncoming weather.
This year, however, we appear to have a ‘second rut’ and the oaks, too, are spectacular. The hillsides have a burnished air – as if someone has spent an inordinate amount of time polishing. There are deep old golds, mahoganys, burgundies, warm browns, thick yolky yellows, giving the air a warm, mellow cast. It looks like a co-mingling of burnished copper and polished brass and I don’t remember ever seeing anything quite like it before.
After the first rut in November and then the secondary one in December, the deer are done. Usually. The sex-crazed bucks have it out of their system (so we are told) and go back to hanging out with their buddies (doing the deer equivalent of drinking beer and watching football), while the does gather in groups and talk about the buffoons who have been chasing them around for the past six weeks. (“My dear, you can’t believe it. Every time I turned around, there he was. No rest. I got no rest, whatsoever…)
This is what is supposed to happen. But, who knows. This year, what with the double, spectacular foliage season and the decline in ratings for NFL games, among other surprises, perhaps there will be a third rut.
We can’t ask the experts. They haven’t been all that good lately. My advice is expect the unexpected. It seems to be trend.