between-our-steps-11-08-17-doubleJust as I started to miss colour, the tamaracks turned to gold.

Earlier in October, colour was splashed everywhere. Bright orange appeared on the maple trees. Birch and aspen became flashes of yellow. Green lawns were sprinkled with multi-coloured leaves. As wind blew through pines, a layer of orange needles covered the lane.

With the unusual warm days, the sky was blue. Not the pale blue of winter but a deep brilliant blue. At sunset, the clouds were tinted with a red that was almost purple.

Then, the sun disappeared. Heavy, blustering wind stripped leaves from the trees, dumped them in the swamp. Bare grey branches stood against a grey, cloud-filled sky. Frost turned morning glory leaves brown and laid a white covering on the grass. Cattails turned a pale yellow. Corn turned beige. Plants that flourished and flowered one day turned brown and brittle.

Overnight, the world turned grey. Even the pines and spruce that hold their needles seem a dull lifeless green losing the vibrant shine of summer.

I looked for colour. I knew that dogwood branches would be a deep red, but I couldn't see them. The dead, pale yellow swamp grass and cattails hid them. A few sheltered trees held their leaves. To find red, I had to detour down untraveled streets in the city to find a maple that clung to its flame bright leaves. Almost I wished for the sparkling white of January and the clear skies of mid-winter. November is just so grey.

And there is no smell. The fragrance of rose blossom in Septembers last flower is gone. All a deep breath draws in is the wet and mold and the musty scent of dead leaves.

There is little sound except the wind. Sodden leaves are silent. Most of the birds are gone, or hiding among the cedars and pines.

I thought about T. S. Eliot and his complaints about April in The Wasteland. His longing for lilacs that had not yet come to life from dead roots, bare branches clutching and reaching from stony rubbish, the dead tree that gives no shelter, the person neither dead nor alive.

That is November here, except the hope of lilac is a long way away. Trees are barren grey. Plants that produced fruit and vegetable still stand but are brown and empty. At least in January, they'll be knocked down and buried. Covered in snow, they'll become part of the earth, nourish the ground for next years crop. Now they stand, bare reminders of what was.

Then, driving past dull empty forest, I came upon shining golden tamarack trees. I know they won't hold their needles for long, the gold will fall leaving barren grey branches, but on a grey day the trees shone, a brilliant reminder that colour returns.

We can tell ourselves that colour comes back, that the sky is blue and sun bright beyond the clouds, but sometimes it is hard to convince ourselves. The words feel empty when they don't carry images we can see, scents we can smell, life we can hear.

We long to see the flash of life, of red, of gold. We need to hear the sharp call of the blue jay and see the blue-flash of its wings. But sometimes, that one temporary golden tamarack reminds us that colour comes.

Cathy Hird is a farmer, minister, and writer living near Walters Falls.


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