Fall arrives slowly here in Maryland. Just when you think the temperatures have dropped, they shoot up again, along with the state’s oppressive humidity. Finally, though, there comes a morning when the air has turned crisp and the colors more brilliant. That’s when I throw on a jacket and go outdoors to smell the leaves.
There’s so much to love about this beautiful season. I take pleasure in all parts of the show – the delicate remains of the tooth-edged brown oak, the scarlet maple formed like a palm and the heart-shaped golden linden. Undone from the trees, the leaves dance in the air, fluttering down to make crazy quilts on the still-warm soil.
But most of all, I love that autumn leaves smell. As they rustle beneath my feet, I drink in the leaves’ earthy aromas. There’s fragrant cinnamon, a hint of orange spice and the powerful scent of dry foliage roasting in the afternoon sun.
What is it about fall that summons up my deepest, heartfelt memories? How can one whiff of a decaying oak stir my reflection, catapulting me back into the giant leaf piles of my youth?
Maybe the answer lies not only in fall’s colors, but also in something less tangible – that autumn leaves smell. They say smelling opens pathways to a deep-seated awareness. Perhaps this awareness, once awakened, recalls the child we once used to be.
Floating upward through the annals of time, the distinctive aroma of autumn leaves reconnects us to this child, reminding us of our own colorful story, our unique pathway through life and our timeless link to the natural world.
Wishing all of you a very happy fall.