Autumn is the season of essence here in the North Country of far northern New York State. It is what people enjoy most about this golden place between the high mountains and the big river. It is about auburn fields of corn alternating with dark spatters of spruce, sugar maples outlining red dairy barns, windy days, and bulbous clouds chasing shadows across a rolling landscape.
It is about college football games, children playing in leaf piles, country auctions, and fresh apple cider. It is about long walks down quiet country roads past two-hundred-year-old stone fences and overgrown foundations redolent with history. And it is about storm windows, getting the firewood in, and digging out winter clothing.
Most of all, it is about color. Winter is white, though less so, if our elders are to be believed, than once was the case. Spring, before the buds break forth, is all black and white, snow and mud and empty tree branches. Summer is green, of course, bare feet and newly mowed lawns. But in the fall, the monochromatic scheme gives way and the result lifts the spirit.
For some, the red and orange of the maple epitomize this time of year; blood-red splashes of color ripple across the Adirondack foothills, giving every landscape the feel of inspired canvas. The colors blaze briefly and then die in what seems an orgy of waste. But as Richard Jeffries, the 19th century chronicler of English rural life once wrote, "there is no economy, thrift, or saving, in nature; it is one splendid waste. It is that waste which makes it so beautiful, and so irresistible!"
But of all the season's colors, it is the bronze of autumn that truly glorifies the Northlands. Who could ever imagine so many elaborations on a single theme? Every field sports its own hue, every barn weathers to a different shade. Each cornfield browns at its own pace dependent only upon differing factors of soil content, elevation, or exposure.
During autumn, the North Country feels both whole and timeless. The same elements repeat, yet we never grow tired of them. Admit it, summer becomes wearisome by late August and spring is mere transition--the Gerry Ford of seasons. For too many, winter is only to be escaped from--where is their sense of place? To experience the essence of fall, they must know winter as well.
Each season has its patrons, and justly so. But only autumn offers such variety of landscape, of weather, of "color." The same every year, yet always glorious, uplifting, elating. Who could ever call this season monotonous? The artist may as well call his palette boring.
"We get only transient and partial glimpses of the beauty of the world," Thoreau wrote. Surely, a North Country autumn must be one of those glimpses.