Autumnal, more autumnal, most autumnal…


autumnal (comparative more autumnalsuperlative most autumnal)

  1. Of or relating to autumn.
  2. Past the middle of life; in the third stage.  [quotations ▲]
    • 1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter:
      “The magistrates are God-fearing gentlemen, but merciful over-much,–that is a truth,” added a third autumnal matron.


Been traveling over the past month, going way up to The County in Maine and way down to the Georgia/North Carolina border. So, I had lots of leaf-peeping opportunities, finding seasonal variations in foliage and weather all along the way. Being an autumnal woman, according to the definition above, I felt right at home, even while being on the road.

The driving I did was almost all within view of mountains; I saw both Mt. Katahdin up north and a bunch of the Smokey Mountains within the same few weeks. In Houlton, ME, where Route 95 ends and the Trans-Canada highway starts, the local music teachers hosted me for a day of software workshops. The travel to and from town was memorable, in part because of maintenance closures on 95 – these meant that I got onto back roads with signs like “Warning – beware of buggies” (turns out, Houlton has a growing Amish population..).

On Columbus Day weekend, the colors were getting towards peak in Aroostook County. People were out and about while the temperature was still cooperating – which turned out to be a good thing, as the town had 4 inches of snow and black ice on the roads just two weeks later. Which means that the northern Maine tourist season (think snowmobiles) is just getting under way.

The drive to Georgia, where I had a residency at the Hambidge Center, took a day and a half, and got more scenic by the hour. I thought Roanoke was beautiful, but had to recalibrate that thought once I went through Ashville. Finally, I arrived in Rabun Gap, had my very entertaining how-to-be-a-Hambidge-fellow session with Debbie Sanders, and started to explore the 600 acre retreat.

The temperature fluctuated pretty widely, but the leaves fell like rain (sometimes accompanied by the sound of waterfalls). There were mushrooms I hadn’t seen before, (like the black trumpet, which looked more like organ pipes to me), odd evidence of creatures unseen (bear scat found in the middle of Betty’s Creek Road), and, by the end of my time there, some morning frosts.

I got going on a piece for the Vermont Symphony for next year, and the falling leaves set the tone for that music. Not really surprising, since the music I’ve liked best is often called “autumnal” (my Mom didn’t like it when I played my favorite Brahms on the stereo during the summer, as it wasn’t the “right season” for that kind of thing), though I don’t know if the music will sound like “Fall” to anyone but me. But the other artists at the Center were taking in the season as well, with at least some effect on their work. You could see that previous artists had done so as well:

DSCN0188    So, I felt in good company.

Author: beth wiemann

Beth teaches composition and clarinet at the University of Maine in Orono, ME. She also spends time in Massachusetts with her husband, David Rakowski, and in her Subaru going back and forth on Routes 95 and 93.

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