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Flaming Fall Foliage

September 29th, 2009

Although the first day of autumn was about a week ago, it still feels like summer where I live.  Until this morning.  When I opened the door and the crisp air rushed in to greet me, I got the sense that fall is indeed here.  And it reminded me of a piece of literature by Chris Welty, Hudson-Valley Region PCA member and former Vassar professor, who wrote a series of newsletter columns in the 1990’s simply titled Porsching.  (It was his 15-part story When You Wish Upon a Star that was part of the inspiration behind my deciding that I, too, would one day buy a Porsche.)

So, in honor of autumn, read this, then go for a drive.

Flaming Fall Foliage - Chris Welty, Hudson-Valley Region PCA

Perhaps I hadn't been paying attention.  Perhaps I was unaware that
the sun had been trying all day to break through the protective layer
of clouds.  I barely noticed the patches of blue sky in front of me,
but other than this, there was no warning.

Fire.  Bright blasts of searing heat detonated in waves of color,
blistering the paint on my blood-orange 911.  Poking through holes in
the scattered cloud cover, sunlight exploded on the trees in blinding
bursts of light - summer's verdant flame had been replaced by the
intense inferno of fall.

The air hissed loudly in protest, but like a fiery arrow I flew down
the blazing highway, creating brief swirling maelstorms of red,
yellow, and orange in my wake.  There was no stopping in this
firestorm, the ardent forest blasted my eyes until I could barely see
the road, and my ears were continuously assaulted by the deafening
roar.

The heat was unbearable, surely neither I nor my car could withstand
it much longer.  The entire forest was ablaze, the flames blowing over
the road with the currents of rapidly rising air.  It was too late to
turn back, my only choice lay ahead in the hope that a break in the
inferno, a brief respite from the ceaseless burning, might offer
relief.

The turbulence of my passage evoked incindiary retaliation from the
forest, and my wake was marked by a pair of blazing corkscrews which
twisted behind me into the heart of the furnace.  I was hypnotised by
the sight, though at this speed my attention had to be focused in
front of me.  Just before I tore my gaze from the scene to the rear, I
noticed a sheer wall of flame, which was rapidly approaching and would
soon overtake and envelop my vehicle.

Survival now became a question of speed, and my surroundings blurred
into a swirling mass of blinding color.  Car control was a matter of
instinct, as temperature became my all consuming concern.  The paint,
coaxed on by the intense heat around it, began to erupt in small
flashes as it bubbled off the surface, revealing the bare metal
beneath.  My own skin was not far behind, I felt as if I would ignite
at any moment.  Sweat poured from every pore, interfering with my
vision and making my hands slip on the steering wheel.  My breathing
got shorter, unable to compete for oxygen with the all-consuming fire.

Suddenly, I felt a breath of relief, as I burst forth from the forest
in a shower of flames.  I cranked the wheel hard and slammed on the
brakes, bringing the car around to face from whence I had come.  After
a moment for my vision to return, I noticed that the clouds had once
again succeeded in cutting the supply of sunlight, and without this to
fuel it, the forest had returned to a cooler, more timid display of
color.

"Oh," said my wife, just waking up. "The leaves are changing."

I shook my head.  She had no idea...

fall foliage

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