Autumn

I was walking in Austin, along the hike and bike trail, just a little south of downtown, and I picked up a brilliant, ruby-red leaf. From an “inset tree name here” kind of tree. I don’t know. I’m not an arborist. I stuck that one leaf between the folds of an envelope, hoping to make a picture.

When I got home the leaf had disappeared. Probably fell out when I stopped for coffee or something. But the next morning, on the way to the bus stop, I found two more ruby-red leaves. I just left them, wishing for a camera and better light, because the coloring was stupendous.

On the way into the ranch, over the lunar landscape, the further south I got, and then, on up into the mountains, I noticed that there were brilliant stands of bright yellow trees, I’m guessing Arizona Ash, just covered with the most unnatural color for the leaves, just now turning.

Bit odd to be writing about autumn and fall colors at the end of November. But it is the “solar return” time for me, and I’m feeling much older these days. “If I’d known I was going to last this long, I’d taken better care of myself,” as my old pa says frequently.

But it is the autumn of my life, and I have to face that fact. Autumn’s a long season around here, with winter being blessedly short. It’s not like this going to be any kind of a fast blink-blink “it’s over” season in my life. That bright yellow colored leaf and pattern? That was the cottonwood, down by the erratic creek beds. Mostly bright yellow, in contrast to that ruby coloring at home.

I’ve got to think about harvesting what I’ve sown as opposed to trying to break open any new ground and planting new seeds. Northern Hemisphere, winter is fast approaching, although, there are days like today that conceal such a fact.

The river road, through the Big Bend State Ranch, relatively early in the morning, it was sheer visual delight. The Ocotillo covered one hillside of the Rio Grande valley then spread up a flanking mountain ridge, stretching across a short mesa. The sun was low and behind, brightly backlighting this particular plant. With its tall limbs spread out and up, the colors of tiny, leather-like leaves sparkled, almost iridescent in the morning light. It was an endlessly unfolding vista of shifting color. Pulling up along side the plants, however, the shade changes to a more pedestrian tinge, either yellow or dull orange. Stopping, planning on picture, surveying east, the colors are bright, shimmering in the sunlight, but behind us, it was less brilliant.

It’s just a trick of the morning light on the desert floor. Autumn in the Rio Grande’s Big Bend.

Autumn’s not such a bad time at all, not as a stage in life, and not as a chance to look at the leaves. A little later, just past the Santa Elena Canyon, the cottonwood was taking on a deep russet color, adding more depth, and texture to the desert floor.

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