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Rick's List - Autumn Check List Edition

Though meteorological autumn started at the first of the month, the first day of fall — according to the folks who make calendars — is Sept. 22. Either way, it's time for some fall foliage, about which I have some thoughts.

1. Do you think our coronavirus figures will rise again when all the tourists show up to leaf peep?

A. I ask you this — me to you, one-to-one — because I feel as though Mother Nature has dealt us a stinky hand, fall foliage-wise, these past few years, and we're due for some color. I grew up in Texas, where the appearance of one yellow leaf in an entire forest was cause for a Harvest King celebration. Even our brightest pumpkins were the hue of a sand trap. And this is how it's been here in New England the past few autumns. If Robert Frost had been writing October poetry the last two years, he'd have been looking in his thesaurus for a word that rhymes with "dull."

B. And yet, it's not just a paucity of color we're dealing with. Let's say there IS color out there — and the weather people are forecasting a glorious foliage season. But we still have to worry because we're still dealing with COVID. There are many things we do not yet know about the virus, other than the latest from that elven Dr. Fauci fellow, who five minutes ago, as I was typing this, issued the following statement:

"Dear Americans, I was looking in my microscope and it occurs to me that this China-Bat Virus is very deadly and will last 24 more years and 15 days. Goodbye and good luck if you're planning any leaf peeping in the next quarter-century because it's dangerous out there and always will be."

Hmm. That's grim. As such, we are all limited in our ability to leaf peep extensively being as it requires traveling in a car, co-mingling at gas stations, eating in restaurants next to buffoons from Iowa or Nebraska who clog the roads in their Winnebagos, and staying all night in petri dishes — er, hotels because we weren't smart enough to buy a Winnebago.

2. Why is it "leaf peeping?" Why not:

A. "leaf perusing"

B. "leaf peering"

C. "leaf pondering"

3. Any of the above would be better than "leaf peeping," which is a phrase that, to me, anyway, summons unbidden associations with "peeping Tom." A Tom who peeps is a far creepier "peeper" than a leaf peeper. The latter is someone who innocently just wants to see the russet tones of a dogwood leaf; the candy-toned orange of a sugar maple; the neon yellow of an aspen. And the former? Well ... a peeping Tom is a criminal who secretly ogles nudists.

4. One thing I suppose we're all grateful for is that not many people change clothes or hop around naked in the branches of fall trees, so you don't read much about arrests of peeping Tom/leaf peepers.

5. Wait! Would "leaf ogler" work?

6. From CNN: "A significant uptick in the number of COVID cases in New England are being traced to the seasonal influx of leaf oglers." With a sidebar story: "Peeping Tom Arrested for Perusing Naked Leaf Ogler."



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