Tag Archives: changing leaves

Say goodbye to summer, hello to fall

Silver Lake, Dayton VA

On Silver Lake.

By Bruce Stambaugh

It’s another quiet morning in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. The warming sun has climbed high above Massanutten Mountain to begin evaporating the valley fog and mist wisp by wisp.

The leaves of the red maples in our yard have started their annual process of revealing their true colors and the reason for their designated nomenclature. Even before they fully blush, a few tumble one by one onto the still luscious grass beneath.

red maple tree, turning leaves

Green to red.

The school buses have already made their morning rounds. It’s quiet now, with only the sound of blue jays squawking in the distance. My wife is her busy self, the washing machine already spinning its first load. Still, I can hear the soft sound of the dry mop gliding over the oak floor. Neva is in her realm.

Orange and brown wreaths have replaced the sunny summer ones on neighbors’ front doors. Pumpkins and pots of yellow and scarlet mums beckon visitors from their sidewalk setting.

The signs of autumn’s arrival have been overlapping with those of summer’s waning for weeks now. The outer rows of massive cornfields have long been cut and chopped into harvest bins. The rest will soon follow until the silos are full. The Old Order Mennonites drive horse and buggies to church. They wheel huge tractors down narrow country roads into their sprawling farm fields with no thought of contradiction.

Shenandoah Valley farm, large farm equipment

Old Order Mennonite farm.

It was a pleasant summer, our first as residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Folks kept saying that this wasn’t a normal one for Virginia. With intense hurricanes brewing and massive wildfires sweeping the west, is there such a thing as normal weather anymore?

The chimney swifts that called our neighbor’s flue home for the summer disappeared days ago. Ohio friends have reported flocks of common nighthawks winging south. Shorebirds, some rather rare, made pit stops in the Funk Wildlife Area, Killbuck Marsh, and Beach City backwaters to the delight of novice and hardcore birders alike. Those, too, are sure signs of fall’s arrival.

Starlings, northern cardinals, and cedar waxwings have already obliterated the bright red dogwood berries even before the trees’ curling leaves have completely transitioned from green to crimson. The Carolina wrens provided the soundtrack to the feeding frenzies.

Old Order Mennonite horse and buggy, Dayton VA

Down the road.

Just as we did the summer, we anticipate with wonder whatever our first Virginia fall delivers. Neva will continue to play chief cook and bottle washer for our daughter’s household until the volleyball season subsides in early November. Just like all the other seasons, I’ll continue to do whatever I’m asked or told to do. Usually, it’s the latter.

Seasons come and seasons go. Life marches on. We embrace each moment of each day with joy no matter the silliness, pettiness, and egotistical disposition of those in more powerful positions than the rest of us.

That, my friends, is the way it is. We must keep on keeping on no matter the season, the situation, and the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Rake leaves with a smile on your face. Stop and talk with your neighbors who are likely doing the same chore. Share your abundant tomato harvest or a freshly baked apple pie with others. The results will be delicious.

Enjoy the pleasant fall weather, the changing of the leaves, the foggy mornings, the brilliant sunrises, the stunning sunsets, and each moment in between. In the process, autumn will fall most graciously upon you and yours.

Rockingham Co. VA, sunset

September Shenandoah sunset.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017

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Autumn, an appropriate metaphor for life

colorful leaves, autumn leaves

The trees near Ivan’s home.

By Bruce Stambaugh

With our numerous stands of mixed hardwoods, I always look forward to fall’s colorful leaf display. In our busied lives, however, the transition from green to gold seems to take forever. But in a flash or a persistent wind, the trees all stand leafless.

That realization confronted me as the autumn leaves reached their vibrant peak when I received word of Ivan’s death in the middle of the afternoon. Ivan was a valued member of the cancer support group to which I belong. I had visited with him in the hospital only a week earlier knowing that his time was near.

Still, when I heard the sad news, tears of sorrow flowed for Ivan and his family. Our intimate group had welcomed him in, and he contributed far more than his usually quiet demeanor would have suggested. Later that same evening, joy overcame my sadness as my favorite team, the Cleveland Indians, claimed Major League Baseball’s American League pennant. It was a bittersweet moment, one that Ivan would have relished with me.

Right after the final out, I called my friend Tim, also an avid Indians fan. He was as giddy as I was. When I invited him to the first game of the World Series, I think he fell over.

I was fortunate to have secured tickets for the opening World Series game long before the Cleveland club even began the postseason. I hoped beyond hope that they would make it, and they had. I wanted Tim to share in the joy of seeing a World Series game in Cleveland with me.

The leaves were still coloring up when I left Virginia’s majestic Shenandoah Valley the next day to return home for Ivan’s viewing. Paying my respects to the family became a personal priority.

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I had traveled the same roads from Ohio to Virginia just after visiting Ivan the previous week. The leaves in the mountains of western Maryland and northern West Virginia were near their peak. Those in both Ohio and Virginia were turning, but still had a ways to go.

I was amazed at what a difference those few days had made. Patches of red, gold, and burgundy dotted the forested mountain slopes. On the ridges above, giant white windmills twirled in the autumn breezes.

giant wind turbines, fall leaves

Beauty and the beasts.

I thought about Don Quixote jousting with those Dutch windmills. I was satisfied to simply photograph this real live contrast of beauty and the beast and continued on my way.

When I got to Maryland’s mountains highest altitude where I thought the colors would be the brightest, I was disappointed. Many of the leaves had already dropped. Some trees were completely bare.

When I stopped for lunch, I commented to the waiter about my disappointment in missing the peak coloration. I was three days too late, he said.

That happens in life. Our timing just isn’t what it might have been.

It was dark and pelting rain when I arrived at home. But just the illumination from my car’s headlights told me the sturdy sugar maple in my backyard was glowing showy orange.

The combination of rain and wind brought down lots of leaves. But plenty remained for all to enjoy.

Baseball. World Series. Friends. Fall’s coloring contest. I know these precious moments will all wither away like the last leaves of autumn, which passes by us in a vapor.

Life can be like that, too, a hard but applicable metaphorical reality.

orange sugar maple

Our backyard treasure.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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Turning

changing leaves, colorful leaves

Turning.

This photo is proof that the leaves are indeed turning into their natural colors once again in Ohio’s Amish country. As I drove around the area yesterday afternoon, I was surprised to see such a wide range in coloration of the leaves. This photo shows it well. Some trees are already near their peak. Others are beginning a tinge of color while many are still mostly green.

“Turning” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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The good and the bad of being noted

Colorful leaves Holmes County Ohio by Bruce Stambaugh

The red barn. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014

By Bruce Stambaugh

When I learned that Holmes County, Ohio ranked third in the world on National Geographic’s list of best places to view fall leaves, I smiled broader than a white oak leaf. I was overjoyed for the national notoriety of our picturesque county.

I’m not sure what criteria they used to rank the global locales to gain such stature. I’d like to think that there was more to it than seasonally colorful leafage.

Amish buggy fall leaves by Bruce Stambaugh

Pretty ride. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

I hoped our fertile fields and comely homesteads, our quaintness and inherent hospitality helped. It’s hard to resist chestnut horses and black buggies driven by friendly, plainly dressed passengers passing sun-drenched woodlots flashing all of autumn’s bright, warm colors.

The area’s fall beauty is ubiquitous. From Glenmont to Winesburg, from Walnut Creek to Lakeville, from Limpytown to Lake Buckhorn, the autumn vistas are amazing.

Then my grateful grin narrowed to a willow leaf’s width. I winced just thinking about our already clogged roads during the fall.

I was glad our bucolic area had received such a high recommendation from such a reputable source. But I found the potential consequences of that distinction a bit intimidating. How in the world would our infrastructure handle the onslaught of additional leaf lookers that were sure to appear?

Though pretty year-round, there’s no arguing that fall is prime time when it comes to the natural beauty here. A bonus is that the scenery is always changing given our varying topography and variable weather. It can be sunny in the highlands, and socked in with soupy fog in the lowlands.

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In minutes that scenario most likely will change with the wind or the warming of the atmosphere or both. One minute you can barely see your hand in front of your face, and the next the sun is illuminating superb settings.

There’s beauty around every turn no matter where you are exploring, and in Holmes County curves and hills abound. You can circumnavigate the area every day and watch the scenes transform.

Having lived here all of my adult life, I’m likely prejudiced about the splendor of the local landscapes. Given this recognition, forget about the four corners of the world. The four corners of Holmes County are all you need to satisfy your desire for leafy vistas.

There are just too many good spots to view leaves to even think about making a personal list to share. Instead, just grab a map, drive in any direction and look. You’ll see what I mean. You can’t get lost either. All roads lead to somewhere.

A word of caution is in order, however. Our narrow, curvy roads are heavily traveled, with few places to safely pull off for photos. You may have to just take it all in as you go, and only stop where it is safe to do so.

There is an exception to that rule, however. The Holmes County Trail runs diagonally through the heart of the county for 15 miles from Killbuck to Fredericksburg. The photogenic panoramas and outdoor exercise will equally invigorate you.

The trail is for bicyclists, pedestrians, joggers, and horse and buggies only. No motorized vehicles are permitted, which makes for a safer, quieter trek to observe fall’s colors. The trail can be accessed in several locations, too, with vehicle parking provided.

I don’t recall what the first two locations were on National Geographic’s list. I just know that in the fall Holmes County is a giant, multihued maple leaf for all to admire.

Amish farm by Bruce Stambaugh

Long lane. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

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Loving fall: Let me count the ways

fallinamishcountrybybrucestambaugh

A typical fall scene in Ohio’s Amish country.


By Bruce Stambaugh

Plain and simple, autumn has her way with me. I’m in love with fall for so many reasons. Let me count the ways.

The dazzling leaves mesmerize me. I could sit and ponder the various color patterns and striations of a single leaf for hours on end, but only if my wife isn’t home.

I am captivated by how rapidly the leaves on some trees alter their colors, while the same species nearby stands pat as if it were still July. Still others give up the ghost altogether, and simply shed all of their leaves within hours. It’s both a marvel and a mystery.

mixedresultsbybrucestambaugh

Leaves at various stages of color in Ohio’s Amish country.

Neighbors have a lovely sugar maple shade tree that holds a majority of its leaves verdant well into October. The rest blush blotches of fire engine red as if the tree’s perfect canopy had chicken pox. In the end, all the leaves succumb, temporarily covering the ground below with a warm blanket of red, yellow and orange.

The usually boisterous and bossy Blue Jays fly stealthily in pairs from one hardwood grove to the next. Back and forth they go in pairs, uncommonly silent. Are they storing acorns for the winter ahead? They wouldn’t say.

Not so with a gang of American Robins, long absent from our yard. They suddenly reappeared, chirping and chasing one another from treetop to yard to creek bank like it was spring again. I enjoyed their little entreaty even though, like the Blue Jays, I had no idea what they were up to.

blackcappedchickadeebybrucestambaugh

Black-capped Chickadee with sunflower heart.

I’m content to sit on the porch during fall’s balmy weather, watch the American Goldfinches, Black-capped Chickadees and White-breasted Nuthatches devour the expensive sunflower hearts. So doing enhances my daydreamer image.

With windows open on temperate nights, the crickets and the luscious coolness lull me to sleep until my wife pokes me to stop the snoring, or the Screech Owl startles me from the backyard pines. I note both admonitions, roll onto my side and dream on.

The grass is spring green one week and dull and prickly the next. Blessed fall rains ensure the difference.

Fox squirrels and chipmunks scurry to find whatever they can to hoard for the coming cold. I wish they had better memories. Next May dozens of red oak and black walnut saplings will verify the varmints’ mental lapses.

canadageesebybrucestambaugh

Canada Geese on the wing.

Flocks of Canada Geese sail in imbalanced V’s over burnished treetops, cackling their way from one farm pond to the other. Lore says that near-sighted and neurotic Puritans imagined them as witches flying on broom handles. It’s ironic that the religious runaway paranoia inadvertently created a very successful commercial Halloween tradition.

cobwebsbybrucestambaugh

Heavy morn dew reveals overnight cobwebs.

Foggy mornings bring cool moisture that transforms secreted spider’s webs into glistening gems. The stunning natural artistry leaves me speechless, which may be for the best.

A sudden gust blows through the fragile leaves of a poplar tree, cascading a golden shower onto an emerald carpet that had only been raked hours before. Eventually, heavy rains or perhaps an early snow will bring them all down, ringing in the barren times once again. It’s a necessary part of life’s endless cycle.

Fields of corn, once huge waves of tasseled emerald, now show more brittle brown. Corn shocks already dot fields farmed by those who distain machinery.

Hungry birds have devoured all of the bright red berries of the dogwood trees. In protest, the dogwoods’ crimson leaves have one by one fluttered to the ground.

I’m in love with fall. Can you tell?

fieldcornbybrucestambaugh

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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Evolution of a beloved sugar maple

Under the tree by Bruce Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

The sugar maple in our backyard and I go way back.

When my wife and I purchased our current home 33 years ago, only three trees graced the acre and a half. That had to change for several reasons.

Trees provide so many benefits to any property, urban, suburban or rural. Trees add both an aesthetic and economic real estate value.

Close up by Bruce StambaughBesides their beauty, trees provide practical purposes, too. In summer, their shade serves as a natural air conditioner. They prove a reliable windbreak against harsh winter winds. As a bird enthusiast, I wanted a mixture of trees that would supply a nice habitat for a variety of birds year-round.

The sugar maple that now dominates the middle of our backyard was just one of several trees that I transplanted from our property near Killbuck, Ohio to our current residence near Mt. Hope. I did so in the fall, the optimal time to transplant since trees are dormant.

I dug the tree out of our hillside woods. The soil was so loose and gravely it all fell off. I wrapped the bare-rooted maple in burlap, and headed east. By the time I had reached our soon to be home, it was dark. I stabbed the ground with the pointy tree shovel, pulled the earth back, slipped the roots into the moist ground, stamped it closed and left.

Later in the light of day, I trimmed all of the limbs and the top third off the tree to let the roots take hold the first year. And did they ever. In three decades, the little sugar maple has grown into a full, mature, shapely tree. It is the jewel in the leafy crown of our modest domain.
Blue and orange by Bruce Stambaugh
Over the many years it has endured a lot, including serious damage from the remnants of a hurricane, a severe thunderstorm gust and an ice storm. Each time I carefully patched the exposed flesh as if it were an injured child.

The sugar maple has hosted innumerable bird nests during its life, birthing many different songbird species. Other birds and animals big and small have sought sanctuary in its embracing arms and expansive, dense canopy. Most were wanted. Others, like the family of raccoons that raided the bird feeders, were not.

Backyard birds use the tree as a launching pad to the nearby feeders. Nuthatches and woodpeckers wedge sunflower seeds into the crackled, flaking bark to crack open the shells to get to the sunflower meat.

My verdant friend hosts free entertainment, too. Late spring to early fall Ruby-throated Hummingbirds take turns waiting in ambush on a favorite perch for other hummers coming to the sugar water feeder that hangs by our kitchen window. It’s pure joy to watch them chase and chatter after one another.

Over the top by Bruce Stambaugh

The sugar maple tree is a beauty in any season, but particularly in October. With each bright sunrise, a warm orange glow streams through the windows into the house. The tree’s crown blazes high above the rooftop, contrasting nicely with the backdrop of the evergreen of queued white pines against the stubbled cornfield.

The sugar maple paints a new autumn scene each October day. In less than a month, the leaves of my stately arbor ally turn from rich emerald to glowing gold, and all too soon drop in feathery waves.

Even leafless, the sugar maple freely shares its generous hospitality, attracting birds, critters and humans. Spring, summer, fall or winter, my old friend says welcome home.

Welcome home by Bruce Stambaugh

A week by week pictorial record of the changing of the leaves on the sugar maple follows.

Sept. 30, 2012 by Bruce Stambaugh

Sept. 30, 2012

Oct. 9, 2012 by Bruce Stambaugh

Oct. 9, 2012

Oct. 16, 2012 by Bruce Stambaugh

Oct. 16, 2012.

Oct. 22, 2012 by Bruce Stambaugh

Oct. 22, 2012.

Month's end by Bruce Stambaugh

By October’s end, the sugar maple stood bare.

This column appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

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Fall, a time to die and a time to live

Fall in Amish country Ohio by Bruce Stambaugh
By Bruce Stambaugh

For those of us fortunate enough to live within proximity of giant stands of mixed hardwood trees, fall is a glorious time of year to observe life’s constant changes.

The annual autumn spectacular of the once lush leaves magically transforming the emerald landscape into magnificent warm rainbows carries us into nostalgic reflectivity. This year I couldn’t help but note a symbolic similarity in the recent death of the ingenious Steve Jobs, the guru who started Apple Computer.

Rainbow of colors by Bruce Stambaugh

Fall's rainbow of colors on display.


The very first computer I ever used was an Apple. Just the name of the computer endeared educators to these amazing, easy to use personal computers. School systems across the country bought them for student and teacher use. The fact that Apple was wise enough to give teachers and school districts educator discounts on their purchases made them all the more attractive.

One of the schools where I was principal acquired an Apple computer for the library in 1989. Now obsolete floppy discs were inserted to boot programs or software for students to use. I have primarily used Apple computers ever since.
Apples by Bruce Stambaugh
Shortly after hearing of Jobs’ death, the Internet was full of information about his life. I found many of the touching quotes and reflections via posts on Facebook.

One particular poignant clip greatly moved me. It was a 15-minute video of Jobs’ address at the 2005 Stanford University commencement. No one would have mistaken the pure genius that produced innovative personal electronic devises like the iPod, iPhone and iPad for Shakespeare. But his message was prophetic nevertheless.

His words were neither flowery nor convoluted. Like his multitude of popular electronic inventions, his exhortation was straightforward and concise. He had three simple points for the graduating class that day. Each was illustrated by personal stories from his humble yet incredible, creative life.

His final point was perhaps the most powerful and applicable. Just a year removed from having survived pancreatic cancer, Jobs told the sun-drenched audience “death is very likely the single best invention of life.” He told those gathered that if you live each day as if it were your last, someday you’ll be right. Jobs was as pragmatic as he was innovative.

Though he had hoped to live decades longer, Jobs emphasized that remembering that he would be dead soon was the most important motivator for him. He related that view even though he of course had no idea how long he would live. Jobs said no one wants to die, but death is the destination that we all share. Death clears out the old to make way for the new.
Maple tree by Bruce Stambaugh
That’s the way it is with the leaves. They bud in spring, unfold overnight to lush, lovely green or crimson until their predictable fate in the fall. Having done their job of helping the tree thrive and grow another year, the leaves succumb to the inevitable.

The leaves unveil their natural, vibrant colors, keep us captivated for a few precious days, and then drop and wither. Left behind is a tiny bud that will become next year’s new foliage. The old give way to the new, returning to the earth from whence they came.

Our lives follow the same cycle, though most span more than a year. The colors of some leaves are more remarkable than others. In the same way, some lives shine brighter than others for humankind.
Sugar maple leaf by Bruce Stambaugh
Steve Jobs was one of those brilliant leaves.

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It’s beginning to look a lot like fall already

Oats shocks by Bruce Stambaugh

A field full of oats shocks before being gathered for the thrasher near Berlin, Ohio.

By Bruce Stambaugh

With Labor Day upon us, autumn will be right around the corner. In fact, if you look closely, signs of fall are already evident.

Some of the indicators are obvious, others more subtle. Some are predictable with still others seemingly a bit premature.

The days, often the nicest of the summer, have a sly, natural flaw. Day by day, minutes of daylight are silently subtracted from the previous day’s total. By month’s end, daily darkness will outnumber daylight once again.

The sun itself is moving more towards the center of the horizons at sunrise and sunset. Those driving true east and west running roads have already begun to frequently use their sun visors. The fall fogs, too, have clouded crisp mornings, the consequence of cool nights following warm days.

In the fields, the harvesting has begun. My Amish neighbors have long since gathered up the standing army of oats shocks and wheeled them off wagon load after wagon load to the thrasher.

Now it’s the corn’s turn. The field corn seems to have taken on drought status, drying up almost overnight. Brown has overtaken green as the predominant color in the standing sea. Smart farmers have already begun to cut their supply of silage to replenish the silos.

Fall webworms by Bruce Stambaugh

The homes of fall webworms shine in the sun.

In the woods and along highways, once glossy, emerald leaves have dulled and drooped. Some have already begun to drop without even changing color. Now and again a black walnut can be found standing stark naked, save for the cache of fall webworm nests it has involuntarily collected.

In the gardens, the picking of produce is a daily chore. Cucumbers, onions and tomatoes have hit their peek. Kitchens are cluttered with utensils for canning and freezing. The ripened fruits and vegetables that aren’t consumed at the dinner table find their way into jars and containers.

Even the sounds of the season have changed. Only a few American Robins continue to sing, and most likely they are sophomores practicing for next year’s prom. Instead of gathering nesting materials and snagging worms and insects, parent birds lead their fledglings to watering holes for liquid refreshment and necessary bathing.

Well-worn butterfly by Bruce Stambaugh

A well-worn tiger swallowtail butterfly took advantage of some wildflowers.

The volume and frequency of the cicada and katydid songs have lessoned considerably. Even the crickets have quieted down.

Butterfly on phlox by Bruce Stambaugh

A butterfly enjoys late blooming phlox.

Butterflies of all sizes and colors squeeze whatever nutrients they can out of the fading cornflowers and black-eyed susans. The humming birds, too, seem to sense an urgency to store up extra energy for their upcoming southern vacation travel.

Squirrels are in their glory, cutting as many beechnuts, hickory nuts and walnuts as they can. Thrifty creatures that they are, they also bury future meals for harder times ahead. Only they can’t always remember where they put their stash.

Next spring, when the saplings begin to appear, we will learn just how forgetful the squirrels were. But between now and then, many pleasant days lay ahead, and probably some less than desirable ones, too.

There is yet one more indicator that fall is knocking on our door. Campaign signs have already begun to litter urban, suburban and rural roadsides. They are as prolific and unsightly as the ugly webbed homes of the worms.

The obnoxious yet gaudy campaign posters are a human-induced reminder of what nature is about to bring. Autumn will be here before we know it, and there is little we can do about it except to enjoy the ever-changing colorful show.

Cows grazed at sunset by Bruce Stambaugh

Cows grazed on a hillside at sunset.

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