Without a doubt, it has been a wet year. Our neighbors have struggled to bring in their corn and soybeans before the forecast has called for more rain, and even then, some ears of corn did not dry and turn down as they should have, causing water to sit in the husks and the kernels to begin to sprout. Some of the soybeans even rotted on the vine. And I do not know if it is because of all the rain or the many gray days throughout the summer and fall, but the trees along the creek are not sporting their usual bright colors. Muted shades of brown and yellow cover the valley hillsides, though I confess that I have been pleasantly surprised to see the beauty in the soft shades that surround us.

At one time, I would have thought that brown was a boring color, or perhaps that it was not really a color at all. Now, I know different.

On our morning walks, I am amazed to see how rich the dark brown soil looks, still wet with the night’s rain or morning dew. As we walk along the road, I kick through the earthy brown of the leaves that litter our way, and then, when we pause by the creek and the dogs lie down for a full body drink, I am amazed by the beauty of the lush golden brown of the leaves that have fallen into the water and lie just below the still surface, but it is really the
yellows that have warmed my chilly cheeks with a smile.

Yellow was my mother’s favorite color. In the spring, she chortled to see the first daffodils bloom, and then every fall, she would gather up the brightest fall leaves to send to her mother, who lived in the south and did not have a chance to enjoy the different seasons. I remember how our mother would instruct my brother and me to put on our jackets, and how she would lead us out the front door on a very special walk through the city parks.

She would carry a brown paper bag that my little brother and I would fill up with the biggest and most beautifully colored leaves we could find. I remember how she would exclaim over the bright yellows, her favorites. We would then return home and spread the leaves out across the table while our mother set up the ironing board.

I remember how she would place a terry-cloth towel across the ironing board and how my brother and I would sort through the leaves and then arrange our chosen favorites on pieces of wax paper. We would watch expectantly as our mother carefully carried our arranged creations over to the covered ironing board, where she would place another piece of wax paper on top of the leaves and then another towel on top of the paper.

Then, we would stand back and watch as she deftly ran the iron across the board, occasionally picking up a corner of the top towel to check on our creations below. I remember so well the smell of the wax as it melted into the leaves, and our anticipation at seeing the finished product.

When done, she would beam at us with a motherly smile and hold the wax paper at its corners so we could approve of our finished work. I always thought that the wax-covered leaves looked even more beautiful than before, their colors seemingly brighter.

We would then place the sheets of leaves and carefully written crayon letters between pieces of cardboard and safely seal them inside envelopes addressed to our grandmother. At our mother’s instruction, we would once again don our jackets to proudly walk down the block to the corner mailbox.

I remember standing on tiptoe to drop the letter inside, and then I would expectantly count the days and wait for our grandmother’s return letter. She always took the time to thank us for the beautiful touch of fall, that we had shared with her and she would tell us how she had placed the leaves in her windows so when she looked outside, she could imagine the fall.

So yes, the colors of fall may be somewhat muted this year, but if you ask me, there is a very special beauty in the creek valley’s yellow. Perhaps I should stop off and pick up a roll of wax paper.

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in Ohio. Visit them at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.