When I logged onto the computer just now, a gorgeous fall scene glowed across the screen.
Reflected in a still reflection of water were colorful trees in varying shades of reds, oranges and yellows with some scattered greens and browns accenting the more robust, bright hues. When the location note identified it as Killington, Vermont, I knew the beautiful, seasonal photograph was outdated. There is no doubt that shades of snow now color that pristine, picture-perfect scene of autumn loveliness.
The whiteness that whipped through here last Sunday morning didn’t stay, but the brilliant shades of fall are also gone. During some past Thanksgiving weeks, golden-yellow leaves have still been tumbling from the maple limbs. it is not so this year, when a sudden and record-breaking temperature drop zapped the lingering leaves to brittle brown, and gusty winds sent them flying into every outside corner.
The color brown now rules the neighborhood, the dark hues of bare-branched trees in the woods accented with the leathery shades of oak leaves still clinging to their life limbs and flapping in the chilly wind. Clumps of fluffy beige accent the fencerows and wispy heads of dried grasses bow in the breezes, interspersed with the nearly black color of thick clusters of weed seeds set atop stiff, dark stems.
Even the skies are leaden with heavy gray clouds, spitting occasional moisture to further darken the damp leaf litter piled up in corners around the house and the outbuildings. Blackish streaks stripe the yellow-beige of corn fodder in a nearby field, tracks of the manure spreaders hauling nutrient-laden fertilizers from the feedlot to feed the soil for another planting season.
Breaking the monotony of browns is the visual relief of green, as grain and cover crop growth blankets the harvested fields with foliage and roots that grab and hold winter moisture. Even the last-harvested fields show the greening of new life, as rows of mixed-species cover grasses push up through the residue.
This is “camo” season, when the browns, greens and in-between hues of Mother Nature lay claim to our visual landscapes. Years ago, outdoor garb manufacturers began duplicating these muted, natural shades in sturdy, weather-resistant fabrics fashioned into durable, warm gear for outdoor cold-weather uses.
Check it out. You can find “camo-colored” gear in everything from socks to sweatsuits, parkas to pajamas, gun cases to camping gear. Even your dog can wear “camo,” if you’re so minded, and your pup is tolerant, although “camo” orange is probably the safest bet for our four-footed best friends.
And, with this year’s first day of rifle deer season beginning today, a huge part of our state population in the outdoors will no doubt be garbed in camo and its hunting season companion color of neon-glow orange. “Camo” has probably forever replaced the classic red-and-black plaid hunting coats so familiar during the days that our dads and grandpas headed for the mountains. Old photos of hunting camp groups, garbed in those classic checkered coats, have become treasured family mementos and mountain-cabin historic wall décor.
Even the quarry of the day is garbed in “camo.” It never fails to amaze me at the color changes that take place with our white-tail deer. Through the springtime and into summer, the deer are a bright shade of rust, almost the classic reddish-brown color of the foxes that frequent the meadow.
But, come the cooler, shorter days of fall, and those white-tails suddenly turn a somber brown, enabling them to become practically invisible while standing statue-still in a woodlot or fencerow. Various types of wildlife have the ability to adapt their colors to changing environments, like snowy owls or snowshoe hares. The coloration change in the hide shades of our deer is just a bit more subtle than those more dramatic costume adjustments of other critters.
On my morning walks, I continue to search for color in the drabness of the season: the orange of lingering bittersweet berries, reddish-tinted green leaves on a few frost-defying red beets in the garden, even a single yellow dandelion that has thumbed its blooming nose at the season on a sheltered, sunny bank.
And I know well that the local deer could be standing just yards from my passage and I’ll never spot ‘em. Camo works.
Mother Nature knew that long before us two-legged types hung it on our backs and headed for the woods.