Every autumn we get one last rage against the dying of the light. It’s this burst of colour brought forth, to remind us of what is all there, of what was, a kind of closing credits for the spring, summer, and fall.
It was about nine hours behind the wheel that day; I regretted not having cruise control on my car. It’s handy, if only to be able to feel your right leg by the time you get home.
I got out of Chicago relatively unscathed, making my way back north. My grandmother has been hospitalized, and she is not doing well. I was unable to go see her in person, even though I came into town—the cough that wouldn’t go away saw to that. Stupid cold. So I did what I could: helped out with my family and tried to be supportive.
Coming home was a long, 450-mile exhale. It was letting go. It was a lower sun, further south in the sky, dancing on the last leaves of the trees.
I shouldn’t say that. They aren’t the last. There’s still colour on the trees. When I reached northern Wisconsin is when I really saw the trees start to pop, and that’s where the photos in this article begin. Hints of gold and crimson amongst the green. A kind of twilight in the twilight.
The further north I got, the more the landscape turned gold. It was twilight and still that metallic shine as far as I could see in any direction. There’s a stretch of road, about an hour south of home, where there’s really very little but trees. It was lit up with orange.
As I got closer to Lake Superior, the landscape turned a bit more green. The lake moderates our temperature, so our leaves turn just a bit later, and rarely all at once. The hillsides are this mixture of green, gold, brown, and red. Summer and fall, battling it out one last time.
So now, we wait. Much like sitting here, wondering about news from the hospital. I wait. It’s fitting that these days are ones where the morning starts with a layer of fog, like a blanket over the landscape encouraging us to just stay in bed. Sunrise is around 8 AM by now, and sleep seems like so much the better idea. But then we face the day, the fog lifts, and we see what we’re left with.
Because, by the time the sun sets—for all of us—and we’ve seen all we’re going to see, there will be that moment of the final light, the last time we don’t wait for the leaves to bud anew, we won’t get another dawn. A.E. Houseman wrote about that, loveliest of trees and all that. We have more time. More dawns. More dusks. More images to clutch to yet.
Words and photos by Kevin Hodur. Previously calling suburban Chicago and Portland home, Kevin now lives and works as a writer on Upper Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Catch more editions of The Road Rarely Traveled with next month’s Sum of the Harvest.