Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Sweet Gum Tree Gets the Memo

Sweet Gum tree along Eastern Avenue NE in Cedar Rapids, leaves lit by the late afternoon Halloween sun.
I left work a bit early this afternoon—Halloween, don’t you know.  Wanted to be home before dark.  I’m sure a 250-pound biker and 25-pound children wearing masks and dark clothing would be an unfortunate and volatile mix—and Audrey had purchased a good supply of candy that I needed to give away since she teaches on Wednesday nights.

The rides this week have been very cool in the morning, but dry and pleasant.  The afternoons are also cool, but the difference between upper 20s and upper 40s is the difference between needing the hood and not needing the hood—40, to a biker of my size, is just about perfect.

For the most part, fall is fading fast.  A few bushes cling to their leaves, the pear trees beside Busse Library still have some tired green leaves, but even these late trees are giving up the ghost.

Along the commute, one of the trees I like to watch is a Sweet Gum.  It usually turns vibrant colors of scarlet and yellow, but this year stubbornly remained green.  Until this week.  The repeated morning frosts have finally gotten to it.  It’s already dropped some of it’s many gum ball seed pods, but the ones that have fallen are green—many more dried brown ones will fall later, I’m sure.

It’s leaves still cling to the tree’s branches, but are definitely turning fall colors.  The odd thing is that this tree, normally one of the most colorful on my route, is rather muted and drab this year.

So it goes in this unusual fall.  The early trees, especially ashes, but also maples, put on a spectacular color show earlier.  But this late tree, most often one of the most colorful in our relatively drab Midwestern autumns, is holding back.

Well, maybe the best is yet to come.  Maybe before dropping, this tree's leaves will suddenly snap into their usual bright seasonal hues.  We'll see.

In the meantime, the barren brown half of the year is upon us.  I really prefer the green months, but there are advantages to biking now.

A big biker like me likes the cool.  Although, chances are, in a few weeks I’ll get much more of that than even I want.

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