Why do we keep taking photos of the same subject over and over, even though our archives likely contain the very plant or animal motif many times over?
Is it because we always hope for a technically improved or aesthetically more pleasing image? Possibly. But I think more often than not it’s done simply to immortalize the beauty of the moment—of a particular bird or flower at this particular moment in time, performing a particular act, or glowing in a particular light. At least that’s true for me.
So it was on this particular autumn day not long ago that I added to the already rich stock of snapshots of certain Colorado celebrity trees at Mueller State Park in neighboring Teller County, one of the destinations we like to explore at this time of year because several hiking trails lead along or through the groves of the trees in question—Quaking Aspens (Populus tremuloides). Their cyclical chlorophyll conversion results in the flame-colored appearance of the (mostly) flame-shaped trees that draws countless leaf peepers.
The annual aspenpaloosa is an immersive sensory experience: seeing the colors change from green to mostly yellow, occasionally orange, rarely red; watching the leaves quiver on their stalks or spiral slowly to the ground, or listening to their rustling in the breeze; inhaling the musty aroma of decaying, or the pleasant perfume of desiccating vegetation reminiscent of stored sunshine and soil; feeling the crunch of crumbling cellulose underfoot. And if one is brave and wants the full sensual spectrum, a dry aspen leaf with its crunchy, cracker-like consistency and earthy flavor is also available for tasting.
To enlarge a photo, click on it.
We didn’t have to resort to munching the foliage of one of Colorado’s best-known tree (which, incidentally, isn’t the state tree—that honor goes to the Colorado Blue Spruce). Instead, we picnicked on the sun-warmed earth under the canopy of myriad musical leaves preparing their marvelous metamorphosis into the substrate of next year’s growth.
While jotting down these reminiscences exactly one week after our excursion, I was sitting in a campground on Colorado’s eastern plains under the canopy of cottonwood trees, the prairie equivalents of the mostly montane aspens. No less spectacular in their autumnal displays than their relatives farther west, they are getting far less coverage. To remedy this neglect, I hope to honor them in a future post, which might be a few weeks away, as I’m taking a short break.
Meanwhile, I hope you are enjoying the miracle each deciduous tree performs each year, be it the autumnal version in the northern hemisphere, or the vernal variety in the southern.