|Columbus Day path|
Yesterday was Columbus Day. Maybe not on the Holidays-for-Convenience calendar, but I still think of October 14th as Columbus Day. It is a day that holds a lot of tradition for me. It means uncharted, winding rides on the back roads of Vermont, following the hairpin curves of Route 2 in Massachusetts and stealing long weekends on Martha’s Vineyard. Traditionally, it is the beginning of the peak of leaf season in New England. The colors remain vivid and brilliant, perennially seared somewhere on the lobes of my brain. Even at this moment, when I close my eyes, I see golden yellow and crimson red. I smell the crumbly, slightly moldy scent of the fallen leaves and the glorious and satisfying crunch of walking on them. I may have complained some about raking them but it was a part of the ritual of putting the yard to bed for the winter. In the first house that my husband and I owned, we would often fire up the wood stove on Columbus Day for its maiden run on a job it would do for the remainder of the winter.
Island autumns are muted in many ways the leaves change on Martha’s Vineyard but in a muted, water-color sort of way. I watch the scrub oaks as the colors leech from green to rust. The sea grasses go from to tan. The Manuel F .Correllus State is impressive from air or ground. At first approach it appears to be a deep-green forest -- stocked with pines and oaks. Following the trails, you can find grasslands, pine barrens and woodlands. There is an ever-changing palette of greens and browns. Along Beach Road, bordered by State Beach and Sengakontaket Pond, there are heathlands juxtaposed against the slate blue of the ocean, the tan of the sand and the gunmetal gray of the sky. I am, by my caluculations, spending my 21st Columbus Day on Martha’s Vineyard. I long for the vistas, the drives through ever-bigger mountains and the riotous colors I came to love in western Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire. Things are more staid and understated here. But knowing the Island, and its people, Columbus Day, whether the skies are blue or gray, is exactly the way it should be. The glory and beauty of this place is - most often - understated.