Morning Coffee: The Color of Autumn

Healing HeartThis morning it rained, not hard and not for long but enough to make everything wet. This afternoon the sun came out and the leaves glimmered like emeralds sprinkled with diamonds. Looking out the window of my office I get the feeling of summer; yet, when I open the sliding glass doors to the deck the cool breeze reminds me that it is that uncertain, ever-changing, time between summer and fall. (By the time you read this, fall will have officially arrived.)

I love autumn! It’s one of my favorite seasons. While winter is mostly white with muted blue/gray shadows and stark black tree trunks, spring a promising pastel, and summer just about every shade of green you can think of, autumn is a multitude of bright colors. Autumn is a Mardi Gras parade. Autumn is the high school gymnasium on prom night. Autumn is a grand farewell-see-you-soon party for Mother Nature before she goes down for her long winter’s rest.

Autumn means back to school. Autumn is football games and the Homecoming dance. It’s when we put away our swim suits and bring out those warm fuzzy sweaters. It’s hot chocolate instead of lemonade. It’s chili with cornbread, pot roasts with baby red potatoes, baked squash, apple pies, and anything pumpkin. (I just ordered four boxes of pumpkin spice K-cups. I don’t want to run out anytime soon. They’re seasonal, you know, and sell out fast.)

Red and green apples hang heavy from the trees, waiting to be picked and made into sauce, pies, and cider. Orange pumpkins and yellow and green squash are ready for harvest, soon to be baked or roasted. Hardy mums both big and small bloom in burgundy, purple, pink, orange, yellow and white replacing the delicate flowers of summer. Cornstalks that were cool and green not so long ago are now a dry dusky brown rattling in the wind; soon to be gathered and tied in bunches to decorate our yards. Clouds begin to take on a darker more ominous gun metal gray. Even the deer that happen through our yard have changed from their rich auburn coat to the heavier brown cover they’ll need to keep warm during the short days of a long winter.

Most spectacular are our trees. They’ve already begun their change from green to red and yellow and orange. Soon the hills and roadsides will be ablaze with color. Air temperature and moisture are the main two influences on how bold and bright the colors are from year to year. For truly amazing color we need a succession of warm, sunny days and cool, but not freezing, nights. A late spring, or a summer drought, can delay the start of fall colors by several weeks. I don’t recall what our spring was like, but based on our very wet summer (no drought here) and our current temperatures, I’m going to predict a glorious autumn this year. Plan a long weekend and go leaf-peeping in our beautiful Wisconsin woods, or any other northern state where leaf-shedding trees are in abundance. Go to to find the current leaf-viewing hotspots. Take your family, the dog. Stay in a cute little B&B. Pick some apples and buy some pumpkins to take home. And by all means, don’t forget the camera! You won’t regret it.

St Croix River, Oct. 2014



Leaf Color Guide
Ash: yellow, chartreuse
Linden: green, chartreuse
Aspens: yellow
Yellow Poplars: light golden yellow
Hickories: yellow
Oaks: red, brown, russet
Dogwood: purplish red
Red Maple: bright red
Sugar Maple: orange-red
Black Maple: yellow

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