Autumn leaves look best going home

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

When I told Dave I was having a hard time coming up with a column this week, he said I shouldn’t worry about it.

“You have a way of finding something unusual – unlike everybody else who is falling back and writing about, oh, the fall colors, for instance. So overdone.”

I don’t have to tell you what happened. All I can think about are those rioting trees outside our windows, drenched in every carnival color known to the eye, the very trees dancing in place. How can one not become almost obsessed with this year’s spectacle?

For a season fraught with dire predictions – The leaves will not be colorful because the summer was (a) too hot, (b) not hot enough, (c) too dry, (d) too wet – I would venture that this has been the prettiest autumn I’ve ever seen here in Georgia.

And you don’t even have to book a room in the mountains; Autumn came to us.

People in the weather forecasting business have had it rough this year. Almost every “weather event,” as some in the business call it, can be demonstrated for television viewers who aren’t sure they can trust the reporter.

There’s the guy with snow pillows stacked on his eyebrows, proving that when he says, “We’re having a blizzard,” we are indeed having a blizzard.

Or the woman in raincoat, hat, and boots to verify that there is indeed a hurricane heading right for us. (If the clothes don’t do it, here’s Buffy holding onto a pole while her body is blowing parallel to the street.)

How are you going to give authenticity to a drought? A weather guy finds a dry lake bed with crackle lines on the surface, and then hunkers down to let dust slide between his fingers. Not real dramatic. Maybe he could enact the icon we’re used to seeing to illustrate thirst: You know, the fellow on his belly, scooting through the sand toward a tall, sweating bottle of Miller’s Lite.

Or is the sight of beached pontoon boats on Lake Lanier enough?

By the time this prints, the leaves may all be down. If you’ve missed them, try driving 100 to 120 miles south. The best place to look for color? Try the ramps off and on the Interstates. The burgundies, the coral reds on the ornamentals like Bradford pears and the Japanese maples are as beautiful as you’d see in the mountains.

Dave spent a few recent days on Lake Eufaula working on the boat. Its teak lay exposed to the baking sun this summer after a windstorm kidnapped the tarp. Most of it needed to be scrubbed all the way to the wood, and new varnish applied.

It was a lot of work, and as he walked into the house, his face showed his weariness….plus something else. “What’s wrong?”

“I must have left my overnight bag in the parking lot at the marina.”

“When did you realize that?”

“Just now,” he said. “I remember setting it on the big cooler to take up to the car, but I don’t remember putting it into the car.”

“Well, go lie down for half an hour and we’ll call the marina office. Did you have anything valuable in it?” He looked so depressed, and at first said no, just a change of clothes. Then he thought of all his prescription meds.

And his passport.

It was late afternoon but the light was still good, the sky clear and bright. He took my advice and lay down. He did not sleep. He said we should wait until morning, but I insisted on going that evening. He finally agreed when I promised we’d spend the night at a motel and come home in the morning.

It’s a long ride, especially when done twice in a day. Two hours almost exactly, and no guarantee we’ll find the lost bag.

Because of the low water, there were no fishermen about, and we tried to imagine what one would do if he came upon an overnight bag. Likely he would take it into the marina office or, after hours, the marina restaurant. I was rooting for the restaurant – ask nicely and they’ll do an awesome grilled catfish that’s not on the menu.

But first: Just before we got to the docks, Dave said he wished he’d look around in the garage and shop at home. We had searched the car, of course, and I even looked into our closet, trying to reconstruct what usually happens. The search yielded nothing, and here we were, 121 miles from home, and now he thinks of the shop?

It was dark when we got to the lake. The headlights swept the parking lot – and lit up no overnight bag. We parked, and Dave walked down to the pier where Alice III is moored. I started looking into the trash cans, when I heard him shout: “I found it. It was right here on the dock.”

The last thing he did was to set his bag on the pier, then swing the cooler up next to it – but this time he did not set the bag on the cooler as he usually does.

We couldn’t believe our good fortune. Mine especially. I got the lady in the restaurant to grill me some catfish, and we celebrated then and there.

Oh, relief. Oh, sweet sleep. Oh, the colors of the leaves, more beautiful heading north than coming south.

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