The Colors of the Seasons

It took me a good while to get to living in a place with four distinct seasons - spring, summer, fall and winter - and a little longer to get to a place where the third of those seasons was absolutely spectacular. That place was not New England, but Northern Utah, where large swaths of the lower ranges of the Wasatch Front turned to one glorious sweep of gold - the mountain aspens, of course.

The mountains were granite grey, their summits a jagged outline against the blue sky . . . and at their feet, in the town that I lived in, there were more aspens and poplar trees also turning gold; their fallen leaves thickly-piled on the ground underneath turned the streets and sidewalks to gold as well - very much like the description of those gigantic mallorn trees in JRR Tolkein's Lothlorien. Beautiful beyond words - but unlike the seasons in Lothlorien, autumn in Northern Utah was as brief as it was spectacular - usually just a couple of weeks before winter stripped the trees bare and a layer of snow covered it all.

Autumn color in San Antonio Texas lasts for much, much longer - in fact, it is still lingering in my neighborhood, where a great many residents planted a great variety of oaks, since it didn't get properly cold enough to begin turning the leaves until a few weeks ago. So, just this very week, it all looks quite appropriately autumnal, which clashes something awful with the Christmas decorations.

I think that the most spectacular trees here are the oaks; not just the evergreen live oaks - which like the ones I recall from growing up in California, they remain a plain dark green cloak of leaves year round. But other original in our neighborhood homeowners had something more exotic than the usual Arizona ash trees when their homes were first established here: they went for ornamental pear trees, crepe myrtles, sycamores, Chinese pistache, ginkos and . . . the other sort of oak.

I walked around with a camera this week - because the trees look so wonderful. They have put out displays of red and red-bronze, or bronze and green, colors that muddle and blend together, or stand out boldly; pale yellow and dark amber, maroon mixed with paler red and yellow, and even one particular tree with a muddle of pale green and yellow leaves still clinging to the branches. As I said - quite wonderful, except that it looks pretty strange with the Christmas ornaments.