Sunday, October 28, 2007

Fall (local) color

Yesterday afternoon--a drive up our 'backyard-highway,' a last-minute Saturday decision to see some the desert. So, up the Catalina Highway we went.
As the local-road-cliché goes: "thirty miles, thirty degrees cooler."
It was definitely true yesterday--in the forty-five minutes it took for us to drive from where we live--Tucson's saguaro-habitat (2500 ft. elevation), to the 9100-ft. sumit of Mt. Lemmon in the Santa Catalina mountains--aspens and evergreens, the temperature dropped from the mid-80's to the mid-50's.
As the highway curves up the mountains, through some fantastic rock formations, you leave the Sonoran desert, drive up through grassland and oak woods, pine forests, and finally the evergreen-and-aspen zone. It's as if you've driven from Mexico to the Canadian border in just thirty miles.
While the mountaintops' colors here are nothing compared to New England (or Korea) in the autumn, it is still a refreshing change to see deciduous trees' changing leaves:
Aspens in southern Arizona live only above the 8000-ft.-line, so the mountains behind Tucson are just tall enough to become autumnal. In another month or so, the first snows will fall on these slopes--Mt. Lemmon's ski-lifts are visible in this photo; it's the southernmost ski resort in the U.S.
On the way back down, we arrived at one of the vista-points just in time for sunset:
Fourteen years ago, I visited Korea in the autumn.
The mountainous spine along Korea's eastern coast burns with maples and gingkos in October and November:
(I am reminded of the ignorant question I was once asked by a fellow student, when he found out I was 'part-Korean'--"do they have trees in Korea?" Yes, oh ignorant erstwhile teen-ager, yes, they do...)
My stay in the country ended up coinciding with my grandmother's death.
I went to the mountains twice during that trip--
before her death, the slopes were still green;
after she died, the mountains were ablaze.
As predictable as the comparison may be, then,
fall's falling leaves always remind me of the end of a life...


Our last patio-tomatoes of the year are still hanging on.
When I was a kid in Georgia, by mid-June our backyard would already be overflowing with the red orbs.
When I moved to Seattle a decade ago, I was amused by gardeners' valiant attempts to coax tomatoes to ripeness (by August or September!) by planting them along south-facing brick walls...
Here, it's almost November, and I'm still enjoying them, warm from the sunshine...
...even when the shapes are less-than-spherical:


October in Nicaragua--month of endless rains--at least that's what it was the year we lived there. No 'fall-colors' there--just lush green fields, chocolate-colored rivers, and our laundry drying on our window-slats. For weeks no one could get their laundry properly dry. School was even canceled for several days, due to parents not being able to launder and dry their children's uniforms! Hanging-socks--what would Gringo-home-magazines say to that as a 'window-treatment?'


Last week, at one of the local high-school's pre-home-coming-pep-assemblies: in addition to the cheerleaders and football-players, the school's ballet folklórico troupe performed--twirling Mexican dresses on the girls, and guys in crisp white shirts, rythmically wielding machetes while kicking between the blades: local color, indeed.

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