The seasons of the year each have endearing qualities that accentuate the beauty of the East End. Winter occasionally provides a fresh coat of pure, newly fallen snow. Spring is the yearly reawakening of trees, flowers, and shrubs. Come summer, the East End is bursting with lush green trees, fully colored flowers, and, of course, that fabulous weather. Yet, for me, since childhood, it has always been autumn. I am one of those who take certain out-of-the-way roads just to see the fall foliage.
It is quite a show that the trees put on every year on the East End. I can recall times when I was driving on East End chores when the sun and leaves on the trees made me slow down and sometimes stop to see the bright reds, yellows, and oranges. I love sailing in and out of Three-Mile Harbor, seeing the plush, multicolored trees along the shoreline. I once did a story on what dictates the color of leaves year to year in the Hamptons. Then East Hampton Town Environmentalist Larry Penny sat with me in his East Hampton Town office and explained water level changes, temperature fluctuations with charts and statistics. There is science and chemistry involved, but I believe there might be some divine intervention too.
I recall my time in college at GWU in D.C. when my brother Elia invited me to drive with him to Vermont. Our folks had a ski condo up there, and he had a brown Jaguar XKE-V-12, perhaps the most beautiful sports car ever built. So, I was thrilled to go just to drive the car. What I was not prepared for was driving through the Vermont mountains at peak foliage. That drive truly had a “Sistine Chapel ceiling” effect that changed my life. Steep hills and mountains with veins of trees in yellows, reds, oranges, and pinks, and sometimes all mixed, just arrested my eyes. My brother loved Vermont, still does. He taught my whole family a lot about Vermont. When I moved to the East End, my first autumn was similar to my Vermont experience.
Slowly but suddenly, summer ended, and autumn began. The East End is a collection of many things: farms, mansions, modest homes, parks, villages, and amazing, majestic old trees. Every East Ender knows of roads and routes that enhance the power and natural beauty the East End possesses. It soothes our souls, placates our minds, and is our safe place, our home turf, our special grounds. You don’t have to be a religious person to see the glory of God’s hand in putting a great ocean alongside wonderful farmland mixed with wooded areas of pine trees, along with all the other trees whose leaves make autumn a memorable experience day by day.
I suppose you cannot write about autumn and not discuss the leaves that eventually fall and must be gathered up. Raking leaves was once a family ritual. Nowadays, it is a significant part of the thriving landscaping business of the East End. Armies of landscaping trucks take to the local roads daily in the fall to address the collection of leaves that literally blanket the whole East End every autumn. There are devices such as leaf blowers, collectors, and transporters deployed to get those leaves off the lawns and into trucks to be carted away.
As children walking home from school in my time, we loved to dive into huge piles of leaves. I suppose we never feared ticks back then. It was just a joyous way to celebrate our carefree youth. Another favorite game while walking home was catching the leaves as they fell from the trees. Back then, we didn’t have sophisticated devices to stare at, so we did simple things like dive into leaf piles and catch falling leaves out of the air.
When you talk about autumn on the East End, one must bring up pumpkins. The pure joy of taking children to pumpkin farmstands is special. Nowadays, the farmstands have mazes for the children to wander through and other joys, making East End farmstands almost like amusement parks, selling fresh-baked apple pies, etc.
Sometimes, we all have to make big decisions, choices like where we will live, raise our family, buy a second home, or where we will retire to. Sometimes the flow of life makes those decisions for you. I believe I was lucky landing on the East End of Long Island. For me, it is the best place to live. Autumn on the East End for my last twenty years has given me priceless moments.