Despite our frantically busy September work pulling root vegetables, picking berries, hunting moose, fishing and preserving, and winterizing, the month has always been one of my favorites, not least because of the intense colors that precede the sober grays and browns of late fall and the white of winter.
Blushing blueberries bushes and flaming high-bush cranberry leaves, hunter-orange bunchberries and dark blood-red cranberries serve as a backdrop to the gentle gold of birch, soft burnt yellow tamarack and rich green spruce. Aspen offer up cheery yellow leaves, while their burlier cousins the cottonwood (poplar) sometimes paint shocking red highlights on their rich golden leaves.
Topped by brown curls and white fuzz, fireweed slowly shifts from green to gentle rusting tones of yellow, red and brown, while wild roses typically exhibit more subtle hues shading to brown.
All summer long birch leaves absorb sunshine, but by September cool days and lower sunlight trigger absorption of the green chlorophyll, allowing yellow undertones to emerge in a glorious profusion of liquid sunshine. A gust of wind sends the golden leaves twirling across the sky like delicate ballet dancers, to land in crunchy piles that layer the forest with fresh mulch.
As fall progresses, rain leaches the colorful nutrients into the soil and the remaining brown colors soften until by snowfall the forest floor is a patchwork of muted grays and washed-out browns. New snow adds a second quilted layer to the leafy blanket, and the forest is ready to sleep through winter.