Speaking on behalf of the deciduous forests of the Eastern United States, I feel I have no choice but to answer media reports that this year’s fall foliage is “less vibrant” than in years past.
I’ll address the vicious, objectifying hate speech in a minute but first, let’s start with the science.
As you know, we experienced an unusually hot Summer. I believe the official heat designation used by the National Weather Service was “as fuck.”
Then, the Fall was unusually rainy. “Shitload” was the NWS assessment here. As a result, trees continued to grow, making us unable to participate in the necessary drying period to make our colors change.
The heat and the rain resulted in this season’s leaf color being a shade more… subdued than in past years. It happens. It happened.
But God, you’d think we killed Santa Claus.
“The reds aren't red enough, the golds aren't gold enough, you call that orange? Maybe burnt orange.”
“Jesus, trees, make an effort. Let’s go home.”
“Why can’t the leaves look exactly like they did when I was eight and felt safe and loved?
“We prefer the earlier, brighter trees.”
“Fuck your dingy-ass leaves.”
Never ones to miss a blame-and-shame pile on, the media tagged us with, “Less vibrant.” Do you realize how hateful that phrase is to a life form constantly being judged on its appearance? To be ignored and taken for granted eleven months a year and then, in the twelfth, be expected to give the most spectacular show on earth? To supply oxygen for every living thing and then be told that your best just isn’t good enough?
“Less vibrant?” Your gaze is a prison. And so are your expectations.
What does “vibrant” even mean anyway? Are we not allowed our nuances, our subtleties? Based purely on color, a Vermeer is “less vibrant” than a Hockney but does that diminish its transcendence, its power, its mystery?
Are we not allowed to experiment, evolve? Can’t we have “Meet the Beatles” one year and “Abbey Road” the next?
We are products of our environment and lately, our environment has been a non-stop shit show. Thanks for that. We've been through a hell of a lot in the past year or so and everything is not back to normal yet. Nowhere close.
So maybe we’re just not in that blaze of color mode you need right now. Deal with it.
You think this is easy, you do it. Create something magical that everyone loves every year. Go ahead, biped. Change colors for me. Brighter, brighter! Smile, sweetheart!
And as far as this “vibrancy” thing goes, whoever smelt it, dealt it. Look in the mirror: are you as shiny as you were last year? Or the year before? Hurts, right?
All these “disappointing” leaves are going to fall off in a month anyway. Then it will be branch season and nobody likes us when we’re naked and vulnerable and cold and tired. But maybe, just maybe, there will be hillsides full of pretty red and gold and orange leaves for you to look at next year. Maybe they will be more “vibrant” than this year. Maybe they will be less.
And maybe you should consider the possibility that what you’ve been watching year after year is a humbling, goddamn, brain-melting miracle, and right now might be a good time to start treating it that way.