The oak tree towered above the yard long before that little plot of land was a yard. For most of the year it was either swathed in deep green or skeletal and bare - a large arm with hundreds of bony fingers grasping at clouds. But when autumn came it was on fire.
The leaves blazed maroon, orange and yellow and they were set in front of an amazing backdrop of blue. Burn-your-eyes azure framed the oak, a halo to a holy site. A week perhaps, maybe two, was all we had to worship at the trunk. This shrine of nature beckoned for attention, demanded awe and inspired leaf gathering and daydreaming.
Many times I tried to photograph it but majesty refused confinement in film. My feeble attempts at art could not imitate life. The lens dulled the blue and extinguished the leaves.
Autumn is a fleeting season in middle Georgia. We gulp down the cooling days. Yards smell of fleeing summer and the nights of cider and bonfires. Pools are closed, bathing suits hung to dry one last time and out come sweaters, jeans and flannel.
Contrary to popular belief, we do know what snow is and occasionally we must bundle up against it. True, Georgia is spared bitterly cold winters but it does get cold to us. When most of your year's low temperatures are somewhere between 80 and 89 degrees, anything below 50 is freezing!
Fall is a gentle leaning away from torrid summers and into the chill to come. The glory of the oak is summer's fierce farewell and that brilliant, chilling blue reminds us that winter, however fleeting, is soon to come.