Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fall 1: An alien landing

I think if an alien (as in space alien, not illegal alien), with no knowledge of the seasons, had landed in Vermont in mid-August and had liked it so much that they'd stayed around until October, they'd be unlikely to think that a frozen, dormant season was on its way. Instead, looking at the colours in the hills and the decorations on every deck and porch, they'd be more likely to think some great event was imminent, and that the whole earth was preparing for celebration.

I once read that the Fall colour in Vermont was so vivid that it made you feel as if there was something wrong with your retinas. We're not at full fall colour yet, but I'm getting a sense that this statement was no exaggeration. Used, as I am, to looking up into hills that are perennial shades of green (since the New Zealand bush is evergreen - which has its own beauty), my impulse here is to rub my knuckles in my eyes, to see if, when I open them again, the remarkable colour has somehow dimmed. What I hadn't anticipated was the range and randomness of colour: I'd expected banks of red or gold. But on every hillside, in every field and forest, the colours are intermingled, red, orange, gold, yellow and green, as if an artist has bleached out the rich summer greens and randomly daubed on autumn colour in all its glorious hues. It looks as if nature is erupting with joy, not preparing to sleep.

In the towns and villages, the shops are decorated as if a special visitor was expected:


Lizzy and Bruce blend in:

While Grandma and Grandad enjoy the spectacle:

Around the neighbourhood, figures are appearing:

We've wanted to get into the spirit ( but with a kiwi flavour):

Like our hypothetical alien, we find it hard to imagine that some time soon all this colour and warmth will be gone, and the land covered in cold, hard white. But in the meantime, we're joining in the fall celebrations - and wondering how, in New Zealand, we might celebrate the changing seasons too.


  1. I'm struck by the extent to which these rituals seem so prevalent there. Maybe it's partly because the change of seasons is so marked, whereas here they're much less so — mostly changes in day length and temperature (although admittedly there's plenty more to notice here if you're prepared to pay attention). Our native animals also don't have the strong seasonal changes in behaviour typical of many animals elsewhere (chipmunks hibernating, for example — and few of our birds are truly migratory).

    Or, maybe we're just dull and boring here? Seeing and reading about all the things you've been doing lately makes that seem a likely explanation :^(

  2. Pete, my theory is that New Zealanders are, for some reason, reluctant to engage in celebrations. I'm always surprised when people say "oh, we'll just have a barbeque for Christmas" or "I don't celebrate birthdays." It seems to me that we miss out on something with this attitude, we miss out on ways of marking change, the passing of time, and the events that make up our history and culture. When we get home I'm planning that my family will celebrate lots of things: not just birthdays, Easter, Christmas etc, but Chinese New Year, the end of Ramadan, AND Waitangi Day!

  3. I guess that New Zealand does not have the weather extremes, so changes in nature are not so pronounced.
    And Lisa, I think that you celebrate every day!

  4. Me again ... hogging your blog!!
    One of the things I love about Nelson is ~ the seasonal changes are more defined - whereas, in Auckland it is way more temperate and the seasons simply blend into each other. My flowering cherry simply gave up flowering and I think it was because it lacked the cold winters.
    Personally, I would love for Matariki to be celebrated more widely ...
    Loving your blog, Lisa. The New England states have long been on my wish list!

  5. I wish you could be here, Diane - you would love it!