As the Seasons Change

It has been a year now in Raleigh, and we have gone past the four seasons that slipped by gloriously. Last years winter was harsh, though not as bad as the ones at other places we had lived in. The spring was short while the summer was hot and sunny and now it is the period for a fascinating autumn or fall. The trees are changing color and you can watch the changing colors of green, interspersed with orange, red, some shades of purple and yellows in between, until many of the leaves fall away to leave those artistically symbolic but gloomy looking skeletal branches devoid of leaves as winter finally sets in. Then arrives those grey days filled with rain and fog and mist and frost and finally snow while scowls and grim countenances replace the happy and cheerful faces of spring and summer on faces of people that pass by.

Life has been reasonably good for us so far, though the mood is generally somber and the country struggles with the recession whereas various other minor issues come and go on the home front. In the course of these 365 or so days, we met some great people, some not so nice people and some very interesting people. Like the other day we met a couple from Cochin who read my writing and visited us, becoming friends in hours. Some call, some write, mostly people I have never seen or met, but I am thankful to all of them for remembering us from time to time.

We have made some good friends here and Raleigh is from that sense a good place to belong. Great libraries, schools & colleges, a well spread out tri-city with a lot of young people. Well, the area as such is called the triangle area, covering Cary, Raleigh and Durham. Two more cities have joined the group, offshoots from the three, called Apex and Morrisville and in this five-some, live some 30,000 desis. There are a multitude of desi restaurants, some good and some humdrum, some classy and some spartan but serving decent fare. The other day we were at one of the former, listening to live sitar as we munched Chicken tikka, and the Sitarist, a long haired Guajarati proved to be quite good actually. It is funny place from a foodie point of view, and you can judge that statement when I tell you that the best North Indian fare we found was in a restaurant run by a malayali-tamil couple!!

Shetty on the other hand is a successful entrepreneur who manages a movie theatre multiplex, the Udupi restaurant and a provision store. Recently he added an Indo Chinese restaurant with gusto. Well, we get to watch Indian movies in his theatre and that was where we saw Endhiran joining the cheering Tamilian crowd and later Aakrosh, which was such a fine movie but there were exactly two of us in the 300 people auditorium. Shetty tries gamely to elicit interest in his Chinese restaurant offering discounts for the movie ticket if you ate at his restaurant (I would not be surprised if the ‘buy one dinner get one free’ comes up there soon), though I am not sure how well that promotion is turning out.

At the home things are settling down, the lawn has been aerated, which is of course the local term for turning the soil over. Only they do not do it the way it is done in India where a laborer uses a hoe or a mini tiller to manually turn the soil over. Here they use a machine to pull out plugs of soil (like AA batteries) from between the grass and drop them on the surface thus increasing the nitrogen content or some such thing. Anyway that proved to be a hilarious story by itself, for I joined up a neighbor who had rented a machine to do it ourselves at first. It was a beast of a machine and pushing it up the slopes was not so easy. But once I got the thing going, the worst happened; it simply started pulling out the sod layer off the ground in our newly laid lawn. After many bouts of laughter by all and sundry around and moody outbursts from me, we had to stop the DIY and call in the pros. They came and took care of it quite well, and did the over seeding and all that – things which are to be done as a matter of course in these quarters during early fall.

A couple of weeks back we went on a trip up the Blue Ridge parkway. It was marvelous to drive by those quiet and serene environs. The locations as well as the road were ‘mind blowing’ (a usage very popular these days…you hear it all the time) and the sights ‘out of the world’.

It runs for some 755 km, mostly along the famous Blue Ridge, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains. So the idea is to start around Ashville and drive up the parkway stopping off and on at various locations, in a leisurely drive. Some of the stop-over’s were so great that you simply marvel at the beauty of nature and the changing color of the leaves. Oh! I forgot to mention that most people make this trip during the fall season to see the changing colors of the trees in the valley during autumn.

Most of us from India have seen only green leaves and if one of you wonder why these leaves change color here, read this interesting description from ‘Science made simple’

As summer ends and autumn comes, the days get shorter and shorter. This is how the trees "know" to begin getting ready for winter.

During winter, there is not enough light or water for photosynthesis. The trees will rest, and live off the food they stored during the summer. They begin to shut down their food-making factories. The green chlorophyll disappears from the leaves. As the bright green fades away, we begin to see yellow and orange colors. Small amounts of these colors have been in the leaves all along. We just can't see them in the summer, because they are covered up by the green chlorophyll.

The bright reds and purples we see in leaves are made mostly in the fall. In some trees, like maples, glucose is trapped in the leaves after photosynthesis stops. Sunlight and the cool nights of autumn cause the leaves turn this glucose into a red color. The brown color of trees like oaks is made from wastes left in the leaves.

It is the combination of all these things that make the beautiful fall foliage colors we enjoy each year.

We stayed in Little Switzerland for the night, a lovely little place with just a hotel and a few shops and just scenery.

I get mischievous thoughts as I write this (and have got into so many problems from those in the past) like I was thinking, maybe that is why people with diabetes have reddish hues on their cheeks. No, it is better not to go in those directions. But maybe these is some sense to all that and I think we all get so sick because we eat too much in winter when it should be the other way as around compared to nature. If you did not eat in winter, the food stored in those tires will be eaten away and you will be fit. Who knows? Maybe I am right and might become a millionaire by starting a starving clinic where no food is served and you just hibernate to music and books.

Over the last few weeks, I sat and read some great books, the latest from Archer and Forsyth – they were just ‘so so’ and the fascinating ‘White tiger’ by Adiga which I enjoyed. Now I am into Adiga’s next book ‘Between the assassinations’ and am starting yet another called ‘Red carpet -Bangalore stories’ by Lavanya Sankaran. I read a couple of stories from the latter and was lost in thought, wondering about the changes in Bangalore. Though we visit the place now and then, the underlying changes visible only to old timers come up well in this book and wryly I compare the place I once loved to that pictured in the book... Well, I will get to more on it after I am through, but I am sad, at how the character of Bangalore has changed and how much of vice has arrived to that once serene town, things I know from various relatives and after reading Adiga’s and Lavanya’s books. Cost of development I suppose.

So as the fall is setting in and the Diwali celebrations have passed, we watched a few interesting Malayalam movies, Pen Pattanam, TD Dasan Std VIB, and Patham Nilayile Theevandi (the train on the 10th floor). Wow! the acting by Innocent in the last movie is simply great and reminds you of the time when the Malayalam film industry churned out meaningful movies.

I have been going on for a while now, I think I must bring down the curtain to another of those ramblings into nothingness…We are looking forward to the winter holiday which is going to be fun, with both the kids home and some guests as well…


Bindhu Unny said…
Felt nice reading this post - a mix of many things. :)
harimohan said…
good maddy
a post on nothingess is nice once in a while and ur place looks wonderful
heard people become gloomy in winter there ,
here and in india it is reverse not that we have much of a winter to speak of !
Sarah Stephen said…
Lovely post, thanks! And North Carolina looks so beautiful in fall. Although not exactly a song on NC, I can still recollect John Denver crooning about the Blue Ridge mountains.
Right now my friend is spending time at Philadelphia and he was overjoyed to find the maple trees changing colors. He has sent in few photographs as well. The explanation for this phenomenon was was very educative. Thanks.
Maddy said…
thanks Bindhu
glad that it evoked good feelings
Maddy said…
yes hari..
winder in the west is generally gloomy, though it is bright here most days and grey only on some...
Maddy said…
Thanks Sarah..
you have to really see the fall colors on the blue ridge to appreciate it, it is really splendid...

ah! country roads take me home....was a fine song, we used to hum it in college...
Maddy said…
Thanks was educative for me too to understand that sugar makes it go red!!!
Bernard said…
This year, we didn't have much of a colour change. It was quick! It is really a pleasure to watch the play of colours in Great smokies, especially in the Newfound pass. 'Trees are really on fire from top'. Your post reminded me of another tree, which is pretty common nowadays in Kerala - Rubber- a native of Brazil. Rubber has got this habit of shedding its leaves during Nov-Dec, and after the cold season, it will get fresh leaves. I used to wonder why the plant is still doing it in another place where there is not much winter. May be it is so etched in genes, that it may be hard to re-programme.

Thank you for this wonderfull post and pictures.
Jennifer said…
Glad you got to experience all that, Maddy. We also drove down the Blue Ridge Parkway and into Smokey's this year (We drove down from NY State)... it's a great and scenic place.
Kamini said…
We lived in a small town about two hours from Raleigh - about 22 years ago. We visited Raleigh quite frequently for our Indian food fix! Alas, we never got around to going to the Blue Ridge mountains - we left North Carolina before that could happen!
Maddy said…
Thanks Bernard..

we still have glorious colors here, it seems the low humidity, less rain and warm autumn created the burst of colors. but winter is around the corner.
Maddy said…
thanks Jennifer.

it is a glorious drive and a great trip for a shutterbug...
Maddy said…
Thanks Kamini..

The good things about Raleigh and the surroundings is the plentiful natural scenarios. Like these trails, lakes and the blending of architecture into the scenery. So far so good...

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