Fall is like a disappearing act. The flowers fade out one by one: the columbines, then the purple lupine, the red and yellow blanketflower, then the purple asters until all color is gone from the landscape except for the aspens and willows. Around the end of August, I notice that I’m not hearing any hummingbirds—no buzzing near my head—and miss those flying bits of color.
The next week when I look up from my computer, trying to see the ground squirrel that has an almost invisible den right outside the window, I realize the ground squirrels have already gone into hibernation. In vain, I look for the house wrens that raised several broods in the box my neighbors nailed to a tree last spring. When I look up at the sky, there are no swallows darting and catching insects. Daily the creek shrinks, the channel getting narrower, barely able to spill over the rocks. The dragonflies that buzzed over the pond all summer are gone.
Last week, fog moved in from the east, obscuring the valley bit by bit (above). I headed out into it, wanting to be wrapped in this cloud, experiencing this rare phenomenon in our otherwise arid climate, see what the landscape looked like when it remained half hidden. The yellow aspens were muted, as were the grasses and willow bushes. The tops of the hills were hidden in white clouds, and Mount Meeker was nowhere to be seen. Everywhere, there was a stillness, almost nothing moving, so when a jay flew out of the tree, it startled me. The world had shrunk, pulled in on itself.
And yet the next day I awoke to sunshine, which seems all the more brilliant after two cloudy days. I hiked up a trail that is little known or traveled, even though it’s in the park. On the Finch Lake trail, the colors were overwhelming, nature’s fond farewell of the year, especially on this north-facing slope that is in shadow much of the day. Golden aspens were lined up along the trail, with a few groves exhibiting tones of orange and pink not normally found on aspen (right). The colors complemented the undergrowth (above): green leaves edged with pink, bushes turning every shade of russet, golden, ruby, orange. On this north-facing slope, the cooler temperatures and moisture allow moss to grow in thick patches of almost lime green.
I let myself be dazzled, even as I could see the grey clouds on top of Mount Meeker obscuring the top of the peak. Up there, the world was already fading out. But for the moment I would let myself enjoy this show of color and light.