Sunday, October 8, 2006

Fanciful Fall Festival

Autumn is a glorious pageant with all the royal families in attendance. In anticipation, we watch them arrive from across the far hills. Here comes the Maple Court, with the dashing young prince in his robe of blazing gold, surrounded by all his courtiers. And the Queen of Sweet Gum bedecked in eye-catching scarlet. And the venerable old Oak King, not so flamboyant as the rest, but even more impressive in somber bronze. And the Japanese Princess, shimmering in burgundy. And all the lesser nobility - the Duke of Walnut and Countess Cottonwood and Baron Beech. And here come the representatives from the Kingdoms of Fruit - Sir Peach, Lady Cherry, Lord Apple and Squire Pear.

And let us not forget the powerful Houses of Evergreen, a plain and somewhat stubborn folk who eschew formal clothing for the autumn party, preferring to remain in their everyday garments of green. Still, when the other glorious raiment has faded and been cast to the ground to be swept up with the trash, the Evergreens will still be proudly wrapping their heavy green cloaks around themselves against the wintry storms.

And paying service to the royals are all their attendants. Vast military-straight ranks of butternut-uniformed corn soldiers and lovely butter and copper and dusty rose Chrysanthemum courtesans and crimson sumac outriders. Spread across fields and along roadsides are the ivory filigree blooms of Queen Anne's lace and elegant drifts of Goldenrod and the fluffy purple blossoms of the evil terrorist, Thistle and vines of wine ivy twining through the trees.

There are the final harvests - heaped up piles of fat red tomatoes and yellow squash and orange pumpkins and bushel baskets of red and green apples and ears of speckled Indian corn. There are the good kitchen smells of baking - pumpkin pie and apple dumplings and zuchinni bread - fall food fit to celebrate a festival for kings and queens.

Too soon the autumn get-together is over. The Royals have bowed and smiled to their admirers, some of whom travel long distances just to see them, but now they, along with all their retainers, have packed up and gone. No more golds and scarlets and coppers. Only the leftovers from their party remain - a stray gilt leaf, clinging hopelessly to its twig when all the others have given up. A pumpkin rotting in the field. A Mum blossom turning brown.

It is left to the scouring storms of winter to move in and clean up after them.