Moon of the Yellowing Leaves

Some days assume an ethereal quality during the living, and October 1 was just such a day. In search of fall colors, my husband and I traveled to Mueller State Park in neighboring Teller County, about 30 miles (48 Km) west of Colorado Springs. 9 o’clock in the morning found the thermometer flirting with a refreshing 39 degrees F (4 degrees C), inducing us to don an extra layer. At nearly 9,000 feet (2.700 meters), our favorite aspen trees were busy with their annual endeavor of turning into gold.

This year’s haphazard weather, characterized by searing heat and parching drought, made it difficult for experts to forecast the pinnacle of this avidly anticipated autumn spectacle. And while a fraction of the trees was still green and another had already shed its leaves, plenty of aspens were in the midst of their miraculous transformation, delighting us not only with cheering sunshine hues, but also with a euphonious symphony of rustling foliage, in addition to a pleasing choreography of pirouetting leaves on their way to converting into a crunchy, crispy carpet. The sky, after being obscured by haze from wildfires repeatedly in the preceding months, was nearly as blue as is its wont, and the sun raised the temperature to a very-comfortable-at-this-altitude 60 degrees (15 C) .

Enchanted with what we found, we scrapped our plans to return to Colorado Springs via a loop road, which, on account of being gravel, would have taken us many hours to drive. Instead, we hiked a nearly 7-mile loop that undulated through expansive meadows, scattered strands of trees, and dense forests. We took our time enjoying the vistas and the balminess of the sun’s rays, but also the intermittent breezes hinting at harsher times to come. Next to a verdant pond in an otherwise desiccated meadow we sat cross-legged and savored our lunch, with squirrels chattering and birds calling.

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Ending the afternoon at a picnic table with coffee and pumpkin muffins, we were accosted by the curious, always-hungry, and at-times-brazen avians aptly known as camp robbers—the irresistible Canada Jays. When the crumbs that drop from visitors’ picnics aren’t sufficiently sating, they will help themselves to whatever edibles aren’t nailed down.

As the westering sun dappled the light, warmed our aging bones, and made us appreciate the simple pleasures of the moment, from high in the sky came a vociferous reminder of the passing of the seasons. Craning our necks, we espied a flock of migrating Sandhill Cranes on their way south. In tandem with our earlier experiences, they uplifted our souls with another token of nature’s comforting, recurring cycles in otherwise disturbing, unsettled times.

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PS: Thanks to my husband for coming up with this post’s title. It was inspired by author Mari Sandoz, whose books include descriptive names for the different months used by Indigenous tribes she wrote about. I have introduced her in a previous post.

PPS: Mueller State Park was also the topic of another previous post.

Colorado’s Most Precious Gold

Whereas Colorado might not paint much in autumnal reds and clarets, it is a masterful artist when it comes to applying golden brush strokes. Several trees belonging to the willow family grow exceedingly well in our Rocky Mountain state. Plains and Narrow-Leaf Cottonwoods thrive at slightly lower elevations and are no less gorgeous or colorful than their cousins of higher realms—aspen trees—but the latter tend to get most of the glory. And glorious they are, regardless of whether a gauzy green graces their limbs in springtime, or a palette of warmer hues during the fall, as if they were reflecting the different shades of sunshine: much yellow, some orange, little red.

Annually this autumnal pageant is celebrated by Coloradans and out-of-state visitors alike, as though it were nature’s premiere, as well as only performance. Forecasters, based on daylight hours, temperature, and moisture, try to predict the climax of the color change, tourists book hotels weeks, if not months, in advance, aspen lovers make pilgrimages to our montane and subalpine zones to coincide with the most golden glow and brilliant blaze, which usually happens between late September and the middle of October. I am not ashamed to admit that I am one of them, and I am happy to share some of the splendor my eyes have seen.

While you view these photos, visualize the leaves dancing in the wind. The tree’s full name is Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides). The tremors or trembling are a result of flattened petioles that attach at right angles to the leaves, which makes them quake and quiver in the slightest breeze. What wonderful performers are these aspens—concurrently with graceful pirouettes, their foliage creates music equally as pleasing to the ears. It should come as no surprise that I consider aspen trees Colorado’s most precious gold.

Auch wenn Colorado im Herbst nicht viel in Rot und Weinrot malt, ist es ein meisterhafter Künstler, was das Anbringen von goldenen Pinselstrichen angeht. Viele der Familie der Weiden zugehörigen Bäume gedeihen in unserem Rocky Mountain Staat, und auch wenn die in niederen Lagen wachsenden Pappeln nicht weniger spektakulär sind als Espenbäume, ihre Cousinen der höheren Lagen, bekommen letztere mehr Aufmerksamkeit. Und die verdienen sie, egal ob im Frühling, wenn ein zartes Grün ihre Äste überzieht, oder im Herbst, wenn wärmere Farbtöne überwiegen—fast so, als reflektierten sie die verschiedenen Schattierungen der Sonne: Viel Gelb, etwas Orange, wenig Rot.

Alljährlich feiern Bewohner und Besucher Colorados dieses herbstliche Bühnenspiel, als hätte die Natur eine Premiere und zugleich ihre einzige Vorführung. Beobachter versuchen aufgrund von Tageslänge, Temperatur und Feuchtigkeit den Höhepunkt der Verfärbung vorherzusagen, Touristen buchen Hotels Wochen wenn nicht Monate im Voraus, Espenliebhaber machen Wallfarten in montane und subalpine Zonen, um das güldenste Glühen und hellste Leuchten abzupassen. Ich schäme mich nicht einzugestehen, daß auch ich zu ihnen gehöre, und es macht mich froh, etwas von der Pracht, die ich gesehen haben, zu teilen.

Stell Dir beim Anschauen dieser Photos vor, wie die Blätter im Wind tanzen. Der komplette Name des Baumes ist Amerikanische Zitterpappel (Populus tremuloides). Der Tremor ist Resultat der flachen Blattstiele, die im rechten Winkel an den Blättern ansetzen, wodurch sie in der geringsten Brise zittern und zappeln. Welch großartigen Darsteller diese Espen sind—in den Momenten, in denen ihr Blattwerk grazile Pirouetten dreht, macht es zusätzlich wohlklingende Musik. Es dürfte keine Überraschung sein, daß Espen in meinen Augen Colorados wertvollstes Gold repräsentieren.

To enlarge a photo, click on it. 

Zum Vergrößern, das Bild bitte anklicken. 


A succession of storms has since shrunken, separated, and scattered all but the most stubborn foliage, revealing a singular, skeletal kind of arboreal splendor. Incidentally, it has snowed 10+ inches in the course of last week!

Eine Reihe von Herbststürmen hat inzwischen alle bis auf die störrischsten Blätter erfroren, abgerissen und verstreut, und dabei eine bemerkenswerte skelettartige Baumkunst freigelegt. Und nebenbei bemerkt hat es in der letzten Woche mindestens 25 Zentimeter geschneit!

Welcome Autumn

As our globe gradually tilts farther from the sun, the days in the Northern hemisphere are growing noticeably shorter. The light appears more luminous, sunrise and sunset more vibrant, the nighttime air more crisp.

Leaves and grasses slip out of their summer attire. In what must be one of nature’s most congenial chemical cascades, chlorophyll, having diligently performed photosynthesis all summer long, goes on sabbatical, and the hitherto concealed yellow, orange, and red hues take a brief but boisterous bow on the autumnal stage, to everybody’s enthusiastic applause. Even the plumage of certain birds seems to emulate the flamboyant fall foliage.

Ripe fruit weighs down branches and fills hungry tummies. While many migrants take their leave in search of warmer climes with more abundant food, we resident creatures stay in place, and resign ourselves to nature’s rhythms. Next to spring, autumn is my second favorite season, and similar to spring, it has a tendency to hurry and hasten, when I want it to linger. But for now, instead of lamenting its all-too-soon departure, I welcome its arrival and the many wonders in its wake.

Jetzt, wo sich unser Erdball weiter von der Sonne weg neigt, werden die Tage auf der nördlichen Hemisphäre spürbar kürzer. Das Licht scheint leuchtender, Sonnenauf- und –untergang strahlender und die Nachtluft frischer.

Blätter und Gräser entledigen sich ihrer Sommerkleidung. In einer der sympathischsten chemischen Reaktionen der Natur nimmt sich Chlorophyll nach monatelanger Photosynthese eine Auszeit, und die bisher im Hintergrund versteckten Gelb-, Orange- und Rottöne haben einen kurzen aber ausgelassenen Auftritt auf der Herbstbühne, zu allgemeinem begeisterten Beifall. Selbst das Federkleid einiger Vögel scheint die farbenprächtigen Herbstfarben nachzuahmen.

Reife Früchte hängen an Zweigen und füllen hungrige Mägen. Während sich viele Durchzügler verabschieden, und sich in wärmere Gegenden mit reichhaltigerer Nahrung aufmachen, bleiben wir standortgebundenen Kreaturen an Ort und Stelle und finden uns mit den Zyklen von Mutter Natur ab. Nach dem Frühling ist der Herbst meine zweitliebste Jahreszeit, und ähnlich wie der Frühling hat er die Tendenz, davonzueilen, wenn ich mir auch wünsche, daß er verweilen möge. Aber anstatt seine baldigen Abreise zu bedauern, heiße ich ihn und die vielen Wunder in seinem Schlepptau herzlich willkommen.

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Zum Vergrößern, das Bild bitte anklicken. Um den Titel zu lesen, mit der Maus darüber schweben.

Back To Nature

Wherever we gaze, natural habitat is vanishing. All of us are aware of the tragic destruction of rain forest, which not only creates, but also compounds global warming, as earth’s green lung is no longer available to inhale thermogenic carbon dioxide in the wonderful process of photosynthesis, which happens to exhale oxygen as an afterthought, in a way. Wetlands, on which countless animals and plants depend, are a second crucial environment that is disappearing at a dizzying pace. In the face of these losses, resignation, if not despair, is an understandable reaction. Fortunately, any restoration of life-giving spheres also restores a little glimmer of hope.

I have been heartened to learn of the success of several such projects during my previous sojourns in Germany. My roots lie in Rheinhessen, a region dominated by the Rhine River, as the name implies. Not far from the Rohrwiesen near the small town of Rheindürkheim (the topic of a previous post) lies a second sanctuary, called Eich-Gimbsheimer Altrhein (literally Old Rhine). A meandering stream for millennia, the Rhine was straightened in the 1820s, which left most of its loops to their own devices. Many dried up, but some, like the body of water in question, received sufficient quantities of water from the ground or skies, aided by occasional flooding of the stream. These inundations were subsequently prevented by the construction of a dam, and the marshes were drained and converted into arable land. The ground water level dropped further when wells were drilled to extract drinking water.

Happily, multi-pronged efforts in recent decades transformed the Old Rhine arm into a lake, and resurrected the adjacent wetlands. The 667 hectare area of this nature preserve forms part of the Natura 2000 network, an EU initiative that has as its goal the protection of threatened habitat, with its attendant plant and animal species. While it represents but a minuscule sliver of the surface of the earth, it has resulted in the flourishing of the local flora and fauna, and the provision of a way station for migratory birds. A 3.7 mile loop with several observation huts and towers circles and transects the parcel and affords glimpses of the Altrheinsee (Old Rhine Lake), of several water-filled gravel pits, of wetlands, of small pockets of swamp forest, and of the surrounding agricultural fields.

Because all my visits have happened in late autumn, I have yet to witness the full spectrum of vibrant life, and look forward to experiencing it in springtime. As modest as this haven might be, it nevertheless serves as an example of how we can save our planet, one baby step at a time.

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Click here for the German version/bitte hier für die deutsche Version klicken:

‘Tis The Season

‘Tis The Season… /Es ist die Zeit…

… for the days to shorten, and the nights to lengthen…

… für kürzere Tage und längere Nächte

… for the summer heat to be replaced by cool days and even cooler nights…

… in der die Hitze des Sommers mit kühlen Tagen und noch kühleren Nächten ersetzt wird

… for a last burst of color, before the plants shed their habiliments and show their equally attractive skeletons…

… für die letzte Farbexplosion der Pflanzen, bevor sie ihre Kostüme abwerfen, und uns ihre ebenso attraktiven Skelette zeigen

… for the decaying vegetation to transform itself into fertilizer and a rotten perfume that is nonetheless pleasing to the olfactory cortex…

… in der die Vegetation verrottet und sich in Dünger verwandelt, und trotzdem ein dem Riechhirn angenehmes Parfüm versprüht

… for the ripening of fruits and seeds that help nourish animals and humans alike…

… der reifenden Früchte und Samen, die Tiere und Menschen gleichermaßen nähren

… to mourn the disappearance of migratory birds, but to warmly welcome our winter guests…

… um das Verschwinden der Zugvögel zu betrauern, doch gleichzeitig unsere Wintergäste mit offenen Armen zu begrüßen

… to remember Colorado Springs resident and farmer, Nick Venetucci (1911-2004), aka “The Pumpkin Man,” who derived great pleasure from giving away thousands of these most iconic symbols of fall to local children each year, and who was commemorated with a beautiful monument adjacent to the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum…

… Herrn Nick Venetucci (1911-2004) zu gedenken, der auch als „der Kürbisherr“ bekannt war, und dem es großes Gefallen bereitete, jahrelang diese ikonischen Herbstsymbole tausendfach an Kinder zu verschenken, und der mit einem wunderschönen Denkmal neben dem Colorado Springs Heimatmuseum geehrt wurde

… to wish happy autumn to us all…

uns allen einen schönen Herbst zu wünschen…