Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Colors of Autumn

We rapt rhapsodic over glorious autumn colors. One October in New York State I drove south about 60 miles to the Binghamton airport. It was a gray day, but the trees were so wonderfully beautiful that I've remembered the sights for twenty years. Gray skies simply served to accentuate glorious reds, yellows, oranges in valleys and on hills.

Today I will mention other colors of autumn. Reds are not plentiful in a Czech autumn, but sumacs and Virginia creeper are indeed richly red. Mountain ash along a stretch of highway is bright with berries. Red apples hang in orchards and along highways. Maybe the last rose of summer is red. Think about other reds - blood of the slaughtered pig, and blood soup. The pig will be served at the dozinky, the harvest celebration. It's cooked on a spit outside, so there are red flames and coals. Also, if I ever actually do run over a chicken, there will be blood. So far, driving slowly, yelling "Chicken Soup!", clears the road.

Orange? You might call the ash berries red-orange. Trees and lamp posts still carry tattered orange posters from summer discotheques. Then there are Halloween pumpkins.

Yellow and golden beauty abounds. One fall we drove from Karlstein to Pilsen. Hills were a feast for the eyes, covered as they were in birches whose leaves seemed to have become pure gold. Perhaps the last rose of summer is yellow. Blighted horse chestnut trees are ugly yellow. Their leaves have been turning yellow and brown prematurely for months. Larches' skinny leaves turn yellow, falling off, sticking to everything.

Autumn this year had much more green than usual because of rain. Colors don't turn as quickly when there's been enough rain. But every autumn has green fields. Green fields? Yes because winter wheat, rye, and canola, planted in late summer or early fall are sprouting. They will then rest over winter to flourish next spring.

Skies are blue: it's classical for October. What else is blue? Fish ponds reflecting skies. As weather is more chilly, maybe workers' hands and noses when they come to the Zamek for morning coffee break.

Asters, both tame and wild, provide shots of purple. Hills appear purple when you are distant from them. My sweet peas are multicolored, majoring in lavenders and purple. They last an amazingly long time. Bring them inside and they'll last even longer, into November. Oaks pass through yellow and red to become brown, but very often a maroon-brown, rather than a pure brown.

Most, though not all, of our wood products are beige. Dried grains and herbs are beige and brown, except for poppy seeds which are black. Unplanted ploughed fields, the compost heap, scraggly leftovers in the garden are brown, all brown. Mud is brown, outside mud, and inside on-the-floor mud. Mud on clothes, mud on rags and mops are all brown. Mud, mud, mud. Mushrooms are brown, or off-white. Many people collect them in brown handmade baskets up until there are hard frosts. Long mounds of stored hay out on the fields are covered in white or black plastic.

Finally one day everything is white, blanketed by the first snowfall.