On the page with all the weather reports and forecasts, the New York Times also prints a little map at this time of year that purports to show where to go look at fall foliage. According to this map today, northern Maine and the White Mountains in New Hampshire are past peak color, while New Bedford is still green.
Except that it’s not green around here. Carol and I drove my sister Jean to the airport today, and in the low areas along I-195, we saw plenty of color in the trees. A few trees were at peak color: one entirely crimson red maple caught my attention, even at 65 miles per hour, even though I was driving in traffic that required most of my attention. And most of the maples in the swamps were at least half red, or orange, or yellow.
You can only think of “peak color” covering broad swaths of land if you look at autumnal colors from a car. At any speed over 25 miles per hour, the variegated colors of individual trees blur together into a homogenous “fall foliage color.” Viewed that way, New Bedford is still pretty much green. But if you walk into a red maple swamp, or even drive by one, peak color is happening right now; and the red maples will be bare by the time the New York Times declares this region is a peak color.
Carol and I watch the maple tree across the street from us; the windows of our second floor apartment look straight into its branches. Our fall foliage season started a week and a half ago, when we looked out one cool morning and realized with shock that some of the tree’s leaves were touched with red. “Look at that,” I said, “the tree across the street has some red…” “Don’t say it!” said Carol. “I’m not ready for fall.” Neither of us is looking forward to the moment when that tree is entirely red. At the moment, we’re used to seeing a few little touches of red, and we haven’t really noticed those few little touches are slowly spreading.