Leaf peeping

by Lorin Michel Monday, October 9, 2017 10:00 PM

I grew up in the North East and never appreciated it. I understood there was history but didn’t care because I was young and stupid. Living near Boston, I should have embraced the legacy of the Kennedys, visited the presidential library, but at that point in my life I wasn’t very political. I don’t think I even really thought about what political party I gravitated toward. All I cared about was me, as most kids do. 

The winters were brutal. Cold, miserable, sloppy, and gray. By the time March would roll around, I was pretty much done with the whole place. Then spring would come and everything was green, and the flowers would bloom, and my lilacs would grow wild along the roadways. It made it OK, even though there was often humidity and mosquitos. There was also poison ivy. But everything was dense and green, almost tropical in a thick pine and maple tree sort of way. 

Then came fall. Suddenly the lush and thick green became a virtual Crayola box of colors. Yellows, golds, oranges, reds, and every combination imaginable. The trees would start slowly, almost tentatively, as if they weren’t quite ready to let go of their chlorophyll. They hesitated. Then, once they embraced the inevitable, they turned themselves over to nature and New England especially, an area that is mostly white (save for parts of Massachusetts) became densely, prolifically colored. It was breathtaking. 

I never paid much attention. But my mother did and does. Every year. As do a huge majority of individuals throughout the country, and maybe even the world. Fall is peak tourist season in New England as the masses descend (ascend?) for what is known as leaf peeping. 

When I first heard that term, I thought it had to be a uniquely New England, like wicked and ah-yup. The fact is, no one really knows the origin of the term though it could have something to do with momijigari. Momijigari is a Japanese custom, the word formed from momiji, or red leaves, and kari, or hunting. Hunting for red leaves. It is a Japanese tradition of going to visit areas where the leaves have turned, said to have begun in the Heian era which ran from 794 to 1185. I would think the journey was made on foot, perhaps by horse. Today, the journey is made via car or SUV, perhaps after flying into Boston’s Logan International Airport or Manchester, New Hampshire, or Portland, Maine and renting a car. Of course, there is also leaf peeping to be peeped across the country. In Colorado, Montana, Northern California. Here in Southern Arizona, we get Ocotillo Peeping when the tiny leaves on our ocotillo cactus bleed red. 

I didn’t appreciate the leaves when I lived back east. They were pretty. They fell to the ground and needed to be raked. Blah blah blah.

But now, I have a newfound appreciation. I only wish I could be there to peep this fall.

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