They take autumn very seriously in this part of the world. It’s rare to see a doorstep without a pumpkin, a bowl of chrysanthemums, or some multi-coloured corn on it between September and Thanksgiving. The glorious fall foliage isn’t just the ultimate cause of Tourist Season, it’s an unmissable signal that summer is behind us and snow is, potentially, coming soon.
Unfortunately, we haven’t seen much of the heights of fall in New England these last two years; in 2010 the summer had been too dry and leaves fell quickly without turning, and in 2011 it stayed warm and green right through the October Snowstorm, and then kept warm enough that any colorage was haphazard. Proper displays of autumn foliage, like the production of maple syrup, require the proper seasonal balance of warm days and cool nights, sending the signal to the trees to turn on the fireworks.
This year, the weather has been somewhat more seasonal, so last weekend we took the shiny new car and headed up to New Hampshire (to which, until that point, we’d never been) to see what a proper New England fall looks like. And it was pretty impressive.
I also noticed that New Hampshire has a neat little regional roadsign quirk; they indicate which state a highway belongs to by making the little white square around the number the shape of the state. That’s awesome.
And, since it’s also Politician Season, there were plenty of visible markers of people’s political affiliation, or at least who’d talked them into having lawn signs. They don’t seem to go for the fence-hogging billboards around here, just the dinky little ones on wires. Since Massachusetts will inevitably vote for the Democratic Presidential candidate – it was the only state that went Democrat in 1972, when Nixon swept every other – the big-name battle around here is Elizabeth Warren vs. Scott Brown, for the US Senate. This is possibly the only state in the country where an incumbent Republican senator is running an ad campaign that a) does not use the word Republican, anywhere, ever, and b) is predicated on the facts that he is pro-choice and Obama once said something nice to him. The Warren:Brown sign ratio is largely controlled by the rurality of the area, but my admittedly very biased eye seemed to detect more Warren signs around the place.
We’re hitting peak foliage in Western Massachusetts right now; Hallowe’en, in all its not-vaguely-pre-Christian-harvest-festival glory, marks the start of the snow watch and the run-up to winter. Assuming America doesn’t depress me into heavy drinking on November 6, I can hardly wait.