Catching the Colors
With foliage in the mountains at its peak in the Colorado mountains, I am reminded of the power of the primary colors. The steadfast greens of the conifers. Unrelenting blue in the often-cloudless sky. Yellows of such vibrancy that they can only be called golden. My eyes have feasted for a week on the slopes surrounding my valley of Vail, filled up by the grandeur of nature’s paintbrush.
Daily walks and hikes as antidotes to the work that brings me here have led to vistas with breathtaking contrasts of color. Sometimes it’s across a valley, sometimes it’s close at hand. The underbrush and grasses have been pretty darned gorgeous, too.
Often, it’s a stand of quaking aspens, offering the added joy of bright white trunks to the eye’s candy. In addition to the golden hues, they also offer orange, slightly red, and hi-viz yellow-green. Some regard the quaking aspen as America's liveliest tree. As lyrically noted in a Forest Service website, “with just the slightest breeze, its round leaves tremble almost incessantly, like thousands of fluttering butterfly wings.” The sight is captivating.
Did you know that aspen regenerate, yes, by seeds, but also by sending up shoots and suckers along lengthy lateral roots, a process known as “cloning”? This can result in a single organism many acres in size (the largest is the Pando clone in southern Utah, with one massive underground root system that’s more than 100 acres in size). Although clones of 5,000-10,000 years of age aren’t unusual, the Pando clone is estimated to be 80,000 years old! Sadly, it is believed to be dying, possibly due to drought, grazing, and fire suppression. [Source: fs.fed.us/wildflowers/beauty/aspen/grow.shtml, accessed October 2, 2019]
In spite of having developed a gracious fondness for western Michigan over the past thirty years of living there, my heart has always truly belonged to my native state of Colorado. Catching the “colors” this autumn has reminded me why. It’s something special to pause under a stand of quaking aspens, eyes and ears drenched in overload from the natural beauty of it all.