That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold.
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
I grew up among evergreen Douglas fir trees which, as their name implies, stay green year round. So when I read Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73, I had only an idea of what he meant by the opening lines. Yesterday when I looked out the back door at the variety of trees, the poem came immediately to mind. There I saw one tree completely bare of leaves, one with some hanging on, and a large maple in various stages of color change from green to orange, red and yellow.
Only seeing New England fall colors in magazine photographs, I somehow gained the erroneous idea that trees all changed color in some kind of lockstep. Living here I realize that it is possible to frame a picture so that several trees in the same degree of change align, but that is not how the landscape actually looks. In fact what I enjoy most these days is to look across a street and see all the leaves’ colors intermixing with each other. Most amusing are the trees which have changed color on just one side or just the top.
Of course looking at the backs of my fellow parishioners’ heads at Mass I can see the same phenomenon. Some have white hair, some grey, some salt and pepper, some brown still. Some have luxurious manes, some thinning hair, some large bald patches. Many of us, like the trees, are in the autumn of our years. A lovely time for a tree and a person, no doubt, but still tinged with some sadness.
As Shakespeare says at the end of the sonnet,
This love perceiv’st which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.