I went north for a couple weeks, and came home with fall at crescendo behind me, not yet visible in front. As I look out now to the South Mountains, it almost has caught up.
Time travel at its finest.
Einstein had some ideas about traveling forward and backward in time and most of them escape my meager understanding. But one part of it I do get, and it applies to the autumnal colors of the temperate zones of our home planet.
If one could launch from Earth at the speed of light just as a bright red maple leaf began it’s fall to the ground, the traveler would, upon looking back at the leaf, see it suspended where it was when the erstwhile space traveler left the surly bonds. That is because the traveler and the image of the falling leave would be traveling at the same velocity.
That is the way I feel when I travel Interstate 81 at this time of year, southbound along the mountain ridge, from Scranton, passing Mahanoy City, Pine Grove and Harrisburg, to arrive at my stopping point, and home. For a few days, I get ahead of the changing colors, until I stop just outside Gettysburg and they catch up, thence to follow along the South Mountains past me with a whoosh of bright, flaming oranges and reds like the exhaust of a fellow rocketman pulling alongside, then accelerating into the future.
That is the neat part of autumn, when the Earth celebrates its recent year with a promise that, if we be patient, a new generation of life will decorate our path through the heavens.
As an aside, I wonder how that mass of color appears to residents of other planets when, a few million or billion years from now, it washes over them as they sit and stare into their heavens. We often pretend other civilizations would be more advanced than ours, but why would that be so. As far as we know, they are not here for the same reason we are not there – we haven’t figured out how to make the trip.
Meanwhile, mild fall weather offers excellent opportunity to wander the wooded acres and bathe ourselves in the hues and tones of the life we share on our own planet. We race around our sun in a perpetual crack-the-whip maneuver like a water skier racing through space at the end of a rope tethered to the boat that is pulling her around the ocean of galaxies that is her universe.
I often stand in the woods, a field or my back yard, and look up at points of light reflected from other planets and stars that may have ceased to exist many years ago.
It’s as though I might be, at least temporarily, afflicted with chromaesthesia, a condition in which a person sees music in colors and visual patterns.
Among our possible afflictions, it is not so bad. Some of the most brilliant musicians – including Billy Joel, Kanye West, Lady Gaga, Dev Hynes, Frank Ocean and Mary J. Blige, can hear music with their mind’s eye.
As I look out at the swirling colors and patterns of our universe, and more colors and patterns we may only see with the aid of seemingly magical telescopes, I wonder what orchestral creation my ears might detect were I suddenly able to hear it.
For now, I must settle for birches and maples and birds and flowing water. There still are plenty of seats, front row center.
John Messeder is an award-winning environmental columnist and social anthropologist, and lives in Gettysburg, PA. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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