While people flock to the mountains this time of the year to admire the golden aspen, the trees themselves are exhausted and ready for a good hibernation. According to fascinating book, The Hidden Life of Trees, deciduous trees in autumn are expending the last of their energy breaking down chlorophyll and storing energy for winter.
Somehow I sense their exhaustion. Maybe it’s that the colors this year are lackluster, fading into a pale yellow rather than erupting into brilliant gold, orange or even red. Or the fact that so many aspen died off a week or two earlier than usual, as if they had enough of this hot, dry weather and are ready for a good, long snooze.
Still, I’ve let myself enjoy every single minute of the aspen’s last hurrah of the season: the light that pours out of the aspen and into every pore of my body, the soft clacking of their leaves, the smell of ripe vegation, or how the wind stirs everything—the branches, the grasses, the hair on my arms.
This year, instead of being awed by whole hillsides of quaking aspen, I’ve been drawn to the smaller views: how the aspen drape over the rusting well handle and prayer flags behind the cabin; how the ripe colors mix with the peeled wood of the shed; how an aspen glows at the end of a dirt road among the somber ponderosas.
I take photos, even though I know they won’t capture the totality of the light, the wind, the smells, the sounds. Sometimes I just soak it all in, letting myself feel the sadness of another summer season gone, knowing that time is fleet-footed and the best I can do is pause and feel it all.
And if that moment includes a few luminescent aspen framed against a depthless blue sky and some pure white wispy clouds, that’s enough.