Fall in New England: What can I write about it that hasn’t been written in greater detail, beauty, and thought by the late Hal Borland? For over a quarter of a century, Borland lived on a farm beside the Housatonic River in Salisbury, Connecticut―several minutes’ drive from the fabulous lake where I vacationed as a boy. (And, yes, wouldn’t it have been interesting to have at least met him then?) During that time, he wrote millions of words about the hills, valleys, rivers, and lakes of this corner of New England, and many appeared nearly every Sunday as “nature editorials” in The New York Times. Dozens of these pieces dealt with fall. In a 1964 piece, he called it “the great symphony in the woodlands.” Nobody, not even Thoreau, chronicled in greater detail a landscape through the seasons. Meanwhile, in Seasons at Eagle Pond, the late New Hampshire poet and essayist Donald Hall wrote a marvelously lyrical and comprehensive piece about fall in his home state. I can hardly add to this trio.
Let me just briefly state the obvious that fall in Maine was colors: primarily the reds, oranges, and lingering greens of maple and oak―swimming, exploding, dripping, and drooling everywhere. Sure, the effervescent gold of the aspen and the muted reds of the scrub oak of the Southwestern high country, and the bright lemon-yellows of the cottonwoods in the Southwestern river valleys and arroyos, were beautiful, but nothing could surpass the sheer variety and abundance of New England’s autumnal palette. The New England autumn weather, too, was nearly always delightful, thanks largely to the decrease in the humidity. I welcomed, as well, the lowering temperatures, culminating in the first frost, that killed all the biting insects.