Over Easy: Peak peaking

For the Valley News
Published: 10/14/2022 11:55:07 PM
Modified: 10/14/2022 11:55:14 PM

I don’t know if you have noticed, but the leaves are changing color — again. Just when everything is chromatically perfect, lovely shades of green surrounding us like a familiar blanket, the leaves go all lemming on us.

You might think you know why the leaves take leave, but here is an alternate theory: High-strung squirrels, birds and other excitables emit pheromones that throw nature out of whack. They slobber all over the trees, which literally go nuts, particularly the oaks. Distraught leaves change color, as if blushing, and hurl themselves onto our lawns. It’s not the chlorophyll, stupid!

To refresh my acquaintance with “what they want you to think,” I looked at a government website for kids — aka propaganda — about why leaves transition in autumn. It claims, “As summer fades into fall, the days start getting shorter and there is less sunlight. This is a signal for the leaf to prepare for winter and to stop making chlorophyll. Once this happens, the green color starts to fade and the reds, oranges, and yellows become visible.”

And soon after we have nothing at all to look at. Thanks, Biden.

Does the government’s hypothesis seem plausible? Yes, you might say, but perhaps that’s because the chlorophyll conspiracy has been force-fed to an unwitting public for decades, if not longer. I mean, when you get down to the molecular level, I don’t really know chlorophyll from Lysol. Still, I can have strong opinions.

But let’s not quibble about reality. There’s something bigger in the air than squirrels and leaves. People also are affected by whatever’s happening in the fall.

Recently, hordes of city dwellers have been hopping into cars and driving into the hilly countryside to wander while looking for aesthetic perfection, as if they were French impressionist painters. They say “ooh” and “ahh” and “look at that hillside, Martha.”

Before GPS was so widely available, they often became lost and disoriented on country roads that didn’t seem to lead anywhere. Time was when dozens of them annually would just give up on finding their way home and become permanent residents of towns like Woodstock or Barnard in Vermont, or Orford or Cornish in New Hampshire, annoying the natives.

Affected humans are also strangely stirred by covered bridges. They cannot pass one by without braking in a panic, parking hither and yon and proceeding to stare at it or take 200 cellphone photos. Actually driving through a covered bridge induces a state of wistful euphoria, a longing for “the good old days.”

In nearby Quechee, hundreds of humans disrupt traffic by gathering at the bridge over the scenic gorge, where they meander back and forth in what resembles a scenery line dance. Many of them have endured long journeys in a wide range of vehicles, from motorcycles to buses. They disembark in a stupor that often leaves them unable to look both ways to avoid passing cars. Drivers are advised to slow down, exhibit caution and, ideally, stay away until November.

Admittedly, some foliage photos taken now have a pleasing quality. But some shutterbugs turn up the color saturation in post-processing so radically that photos resemble 1960s art created by hippies under the influence of LSD. Or velvet Elvis paintings. The resulting photos pulse on the screen. Because so many are affected by what amounts to a seasonal color disorder, these lurid photographs garner many “likes” on Facebook. Comments include “beautiful!”, “more color saturation, please” and “I think I am looking onto the soul of the universe, man.”

Fortunately, natives seem to develop a natural resistance to whatever is affecting visitors from the colorless flatlands. They can help the afflicted by providing healthy doses of maple candies, bagged apples and sweatshirts that say “New Hampshire” or “Vermont.” Shopping seems to calm them down. Flannel is also a powerful relaxant, along with the natural lanolin found in wool products.

It is a good idea to assure each and every visitor that they have seen “peak foliage,” even when it isn’t true. If we don’t offer this assurance, many will extend their visits, which benefits neither visitors nor families who host relatives for more than three days, the maximum allowed by law.

I think I could make a fortune selling “Authentic Upper Valley Bagged Leaves” to visitors, but I don’t want to exploit their transient vulnerability to foliage, white church steeples, a chill in the air and any rendition of Moonlight in Vermont.

In coming years Vermont will offer legal cannabis sales that might change and will almost certainly enhance the rapture of fall. Things are a little weird even now. Are we ready for “leafer madness?”

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at dan.mackie@yahoo.com.

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