Not much surpasses the beauty of fall in Colorado. With crisp mornings, changing leaves and warm afternoon sunshine it lives up to its state motto of being Colorful Colorado. It is difficult to describe the feeling I get just thinking about fall in the mountains! I close my eyes and can smell that fresh air, thick with pine, sunshine, and fallen leaves; it is like sunshine in my soul. I’ve asked friends still there to bottle it up for me, with no success. No matter what combination of oils I put into my diffuser, I haven’t been successful in replicating that scent – a mixture of clear air, earth, pine trees, and fallen leaves with a hint of spice and smoke from wood burning fireplaces that warmed the homes in our little valley.
Living at 8500 feet, tucked into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, we were surrounded by the signs of fall. Cooler mornings brought out sweaters and long pants, corduroy and light jackets much earlier than those who lived “down the hill” (in the Denver-metro area). Frost came early in the fall and warned us of the impending first snowfall of the season. Layering was and is the only way to dress in Colorado’s fall, peeling off layers as the day progressed and returning those layers as sunset showed its brilliant colors. (That is one surprising thing I miss, being here in Houston – where Fall occurs in short spurts, and is interrupted frequently by long stretches of heat and humidity, not making a full appearance until early November.)
Changing aspen tress dotted each mountainside and the woods surrounding our house. The brilliant yellows, oranges, and reds intertwined with those last holdouts of green leaves was, and still is, a stunning sight. I remember fondly walking through the woods with my sisters and cousins collecting our favorites. We would pick through fallen piles of leaves, each of us searching for the “perfect” leaf. We would carefully place our specially selected leaves in the pages of heavy volumes to be preserved and saved. Each curved leaf speckled with variations of color spanning from greens and yellows bleeding into oranges and reds; each unique in its coloring, much like those basking in their beauty. Every so often, I still stumble upon a leaf carefully tucked in some obscure book, forgotten, and memories of past autumns come tumbling into my mind.
In our family, fall meant a return to school, a hurried rush to finish crafts for the fall craft shows, and of course the return of intense football viewing. It was also a race of sorts – to see how many more camping trips we could squeeze in before the weather turned. I felt like we were always tempting fate by venturing into “high country” late into fall. I remember one particular expedition that took us to Guanella Pass where we met up with some friends and their families that my parents worked with. We hiked in the surrounding forest, leaves crunching under our feet, a 360- degree view of every fall color imaginable. Heated by dappled afternoon light bouncing through the branches, with John Denver’s “Sunshine on My Shoulders” running through our heads, we would tie our sweatshirts around our waists, and snap pictures to remember the moment with our 35 mm cameras. Upon awakening on our second morning there, we were very grateful for the small propane heater in our little camper (the first time we had ever used it!), for Jack Frost had visited us during the night and left behind a dusting of snow! Just like that, Fall had taken a turn towards winter.
While Fall marks the end of summer and its carefree lifestyle filled with bar-b-ques, picnics, and an overabundance of sunshine, it is also the beginning of the renewal process. We must have Fall with its indirect sunshine, cooler temperatures, and falling leaves so that nature can “rest” and wake up renewed in the Spring. If Mother Nature takes time to redo the landscape, perhaps we humans need to take note. It is a good reminder to us to slow down, to tuck in and rest our souls for the coming winter season of activities that includes parties and cookies, the occasional overindulgence, but most importantly Christmas. Just as we have Spring Cleaning, maybe we need to have “Fall Preparation” to help our spirits quiet and prepare for the Coming. Be sure to take time this fall to enjoy the changing landscape, to note the cooling temperatures and prepare for the coming of winter. Jump into a pile of leaves, have some warm apple cider, frolic through a pumpkin patch, find your way through a corn maze, wrap yourself in a cozy sweater and take a deep breath. Enjoy this season and all the color it brings.