Nearly a month ago I posted a photo of beech leaves in my yard, still green as other leaves began to turn. In that month I have traveled quite a bit and seen many autumns. There was a whisper of fall in Georgia. An explosion of brilliant colors in New York’s Hudson Valley. I followed the peak colors down the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. Most recently I caught the last vestiges of the season in the piedmont of South Carolina.
Now I am home again, and the trees are mostly bare. The stubborn beech trees are still clinging to their leaves. But now they are finally turning. Backlit by late afternoon sun, they shimmer with color. The leaves shaded by the enormous trunk and branches are bronze and copper, while the leaves in full sun are yellow, and some almost seem to glitter with gold. Unlike the other trees, the beech leaves won’t drop right away. They will cling through winter, holding on impossibly long as the leaves grow brown and dry, only falling as new leaves unfold in spring.
I felt a pang admiring the colors on this brisk afternoon, all the season distilled down to this tree. Winter will trace marvelous patterns of frost and snow in the forest. But deep down I empathize with the beech and want to cling to the leaves, never letting go.