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Days of Brazen Color

I am glad I shall never be young

without wild country to be young in.

Of what avail are forty freedoms

without a blank spot on the map?

A Sand County Almanac

Aldo Leopold

The day was delirious. Fall colors from red maple, golden aspen, mixed with the muted greens of the pine. It was a day of splendor, driving the abbreviated backroads among the hills.

Later the breezes would toss the leaves and

scatter them, but today it was all perfect.

Sometimes life can be that frenetic, too alive with glorious colors that don’t quite match our experience. It is more than “enough.” It is electric.

Gazing up into the sun swelled trees, such experiences dwarf the routine days that draw summer on.

Then, the days are beautiful but not like this. With that first tinge of frost in the air, things come out of solstice to peak in the coveys and along the crest of the hills.

I have been told it is not entirely sure why leaves lose

the chlorophyll that fills them. Some say it is the length of days. Others claim it is the cold that affects delicate root structures and the spawn of vital energies to the rest of the tree.

What is most interesting is that the blaze of

colors we see are the tree’s true colors.

Summer masks this and hides it.

But with the approach of winter, conditions allow the branches and leaves to reveal themselves.

In retirement, I think about transformation while walking the paths and portages and open spaces of the canoe


Here, in this explosion of red and yellow and auburn

and scarlet and vermillion, there is no self-deprecation.

As the days darken, it is as though the trees take one last great swing for the fences.

They become what they are. While their time is brief, it is well-lived, and they go out holding nothing back.

It is a time of greater silence, of shadows lengthening, of good days and sudden shifts in the weather. But, it is as though nature itself knows it is its time to celebrate the growth of summer and to shed the leaves that hold the snow and ice of coming winter.

It occurs to me retirement mimics these days of quiet activity. Even the fish are coming into the shallows now. The stars are brighter, but we stay out less. Fires warm us, but we must have made provision for them storing up wood that is not green or full of moisture.

Suddenly daylight seems so much shorter. We are thinking it might be our last fishing trip for this year and are measuring when it is time to clean the wood stove chimney.

Here, we have the opportunity to become

the person we are. Periods of productivity

give way, as the shortness of the day,

or a lapse in physical energy,

reminds us time is becoming short.

It is a time when we shouldn’t hold back. It is a time when we must venture into the heart of the country, leave the familiar lakes along the shore to spend more time in places that will soon be buried in snowdrifts.

Later will be a time for the tamarack growing in the swamps and sedges to glow with the warm yellows of autumn. It is another of my favorite times when branches have been stripped and stand like sketches against the sky.

There will likely be frost gathering on the grasses in the land of the beaver and occasional moose.Tamaracks are a hardy tree that grows slowly. They too will mark the changing of the season.

Perhaps both will be offered to me, the time to show forth what has been delayed through years of activity and raising a family. A second moment after life has lost much of its wild energy, when I can still enjoy the more somber aspects of the season in places more secluded and primal.

It is interesting to me that even on days when trees are bereft of their leaves, undiscovered lakes can be seen where once they were hidden.

Compass Season book display

Days of Brazen Color taken from the book Compass Season available on Amazon.

Ideal as a gift for a friend, to mark the seasons, to rekindle life and times in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota.

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