It’s been a few weeks now since we took the hike I wanted to write about. The grading and lesson plans have completely taken over my life, and the guitar is going unplayed, the dishes are piling up, and the writing’s not getting done. Mid-semester fall is about the worst time of year work-wise for an academic, and it’s a pity, as it’s definitely my favorite time to be walking about with no definite purpose other than to absorb the what’s there to see. I had wanted to talk about falls colors, since for us ruralists – well, us arboreal mid-Atlantic and New England state ruralists – the fall transformation that so many city-dwellers and suburbanites seek out as car-touring eye-candy is no less a spectacle and a prompt to reflections on beauty, mortality, and the value of the natural world, even if it does fall somewhat into the rhythms of the typical. Then the colors were only starting to change, and that change was mostly to the deep reds or pure yellows of shrubs and vines, with additional notes of yellows and purples provided by late-blooming wildflowers. Now the maples with their monochromatic but grandiose show have gone fire-orange and nearly done, with the top half of the trees fairly much blown out by now. Even the massive maple in our backyard, which is for us fall’s biggest diva, going dramatically yellow before gracing us with two days of a constant rain of color as the leaves drop, has this year shed all its leaves without our noticing.