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Ode to fall in Connecticut

I used to loathe fall. Fall meant school, a schedule, dark mornings, cold weather and, worst of all -- winter! I was a summer girl, barefoot, blonde and loved the sand, the salt water, the hot summer days with no school, no schedule, no responsibilities. Spring, on the other hand, was welcome because it meant summer was coming. Spring held promise of good things to come.

But fall, held promise too. Fall meant winter, and as the days grew shorter and colder, I just grew glum and dreary, and I withdrew. Winter was going to come and it was going to be so dark, so cold, so snowy. Oh how I already missed the hot, sunny days of summer. But I also missed so much more. I missed the glorious fall!!

Oh, how I've changed my ways.

All my youthful ruminations of winter were simply a meaningless distraction. Some winters were mild. They weren't horrible at all! In fact, horrible winters were rare. Of course, with the passage of time, I've learned to appreciate winter's benefits, too. But, back then, I must have missed hundreds of perfect days, thousands of breathtaking trees, and countless opportunities to be happy.

And, oh what beautiful trees we have here in Connecticut. Each fall is different but this is one of the good ones. Did you know that Connecticut is one of the most heavily forested states? Sixty percent of our little state is covered with trees. Here are the top 10 according to the CT Tree Protective Association: red maple, black birch, eastern hemlock, sugar maple, northern red oak, beech, eastern white pine, black cherry, yellow birch and pignut hickory.

I realized in recent years that I don't even know most of the trees around me, and in the fall, most of the nuts that fall. Oaks and acorns, I know. But I'm just teaching myself the difference between black walnuts and horse chestnuts. I'm trying to identify hickory trees (instead of hickory-flavored barbecue sauce) and searching for a sugar maple with the most spectacular colors.

The natural world around us abounds with information that was common knowledge 200 years ago, like what woods burn best for a slow fire, what nuts are tastiest, what conditions likely are ahead based on current water levels, fruit and nut production, growth this season, animal behavior and more.

Fall is a beautiful time of year in Connecticut, and it's a perfect time to remember we are nature and to practice being here now. Enjoy your fall, or whatever season it is wherever you are.

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