An idle check of events in Seattle during October reveals a preponderance of pumpkin-centered activities, not to mention beer festivals, are on offer. These are the rituals of fall, at least in our part of the world. What they have in common with fall celebrations across time and other countries is a celebration of the earth’s bounty.
Before Europeans came to North America the Native Americans had their own particular celebrations of the fall harvest with festivals that included much dancing and eating. Plus, a bit of matchmaking between villages to keep things really interesting.
In China the moon has an autumnal birthday and cakes are baked in celebration using flour from the harvested rice. Observers may see flowers falling from the sky on the night of the moon’s birthday, an event that means they will be blessed by abundance.
Germanic peoples worried about the grain crop in the fall, particularly if there was wind about since that was a sign the god, Odin, wanted a share. To keep him happy the people threw a few sacks of flour in the air as offerings.
At the Dunn Gardens we have our own particular seasonal ritual that is not particularly taxing for the visitor. All he or she has to do is look at the trees in their autumnal splendor and feel good. A whole bunch of Acers for starters– Acer palmatum 'Orange Dream' presents as the name suggests through the fall, Acer palmatum 'Red Form' is, no surprise, crimson. Acer saccharum or sugar maple large and expansive, glows with fall colors of the beer and pumpkin variety, and has been doing so for 100 years. It is one of the heritage trees in the garden. Acer tegmentosum 'White Tigress' doesn’t have the blast of some maples but its bark is stripy and gets better with age.
Cornus kousa, the Korean dogwood, is a tree that delivers in both the spring with fulsome blossoms and in the fall with a commendable display of energy. As does Crataegus x lavallei, or Lavalle Hawthorne. The leaves of this tree range from an even crimson to bronze. (Sigh. The Hawthorne is the rumored portal to fairyland and so it is no surprise it is gorgeous.)
And so it goes on. My personal favorite is a small tree, Enkianthus campanulatus. It sits like green, self-effacing wallpaper in the summer but suddenly bursts out in the shorter days into the equivalent of an aria. It is loud without being pretentious, beautiful, and well aware that its glory should be shared. This tree is a smile worthy sight in the fall.
There could be more said about the arboreal delights of the upcoming season but there is no need. Fall is its own best messenger. As much fun as beer and pumpkin activities are, just seeing the leaves turn is surely a festival all on its own. And better yet— all a body has to do is watch. And smile.