Falling Down: A Tale of Autumn Tourism and Treachery in Western North Carolina
Trees are often overshadowed by various other modern luxuries. Children and elders alike would primarily rather sit and watch a televised program, or watch precious, finite time wither away via the tiny pixelated clock on the top of a cellular device than venture into the great outdoors for an extended period of time. We set our phone’s wallpaper or lock screen as a photo of a mysterious, mentally encapsulating forest, yet we rarely concern ourselves with the well-being of the trees in said photographs. This is all linked to the modern, unspoken but widely believed philosophy concerning the current state of events- if we block it out, and pretend that nothing is happening, we can, theoretically, persevere through the horrible things surrounding us. Instead of choosing to attempt to prevent the demise of planet Earth, most adults instead opt to practice purposeless, self inflicted ignorance. If we smile and look at virtual images of nature, we can ignore the fact that most of the natural ecosystems are being destroyed more and more with each passing second.
The one exception to this is during autumn. Workers from across the nation are eager to research the upcoming season, and determine when the ripe leaves will show their truest, and most beautiful colors. Eventually, obscene amounts of tourists will funnel into mountainous regions to observe the many rich hues of fall via a first person perspective. A 2010 survey entitled “The Economics of Fall Foliage Tourism on North Carolina” conducted by Appalachian State University, states that, on estimate, over 5.2 million visitors, primarily from other states, flock to rural areas in North Carolina yearly during peak leaf season between the months of September and November. Finally, small business owners, and large chain tourist shops alike will rake in the vast majority of their income during this prosperous season. According to the same survey formerly referenced,, annually, over one billion dollars is contributed to the North Carolina economy by fall foliage related activities alone. However, not everybody is entranced by the vividly bright, natural beings; to most locals and long term residents of these regions, the leaves are typically underwhelming. We have all become increasingly aware that these colorful, precarious entities mark the end of warm, pleasant weather, and the beginning of a season of cold, bitter dismay. The exception to this brutal truth of pessimism lies deeply in children.
With my favorite bright red ceramic mug in hand, I decided to venture out onto my walnut wrap around porch. Because my home sits strategically upon a fairly large rolling hill, it is possible to observe the neighborhood which lies beneath. Attempting to find a suitable spot for relaxation, I sunk into my favorite snow white rocking chair, carefully, in an attempt to avoid any unnecessary spillage of my smooth, black coffee. After a bit of adjustment demanded by my intense yearning for comfort, I let out an exasperated sigh, and allowed my eyes to finally wander. Progressively, they crept down to the homes and surrounding areas beneath. Positioned in a slightly circular arrangement, the extremely bland houses stared blankly at one another. Everything beneath seemed so boring and uniform; each beige home sat on a lot of dehydrated browning grass penetrated by a few decaying yard ornaments, and partially draped by a thin frosting of sinking gravel. Evergreen trees provided a nice pop of color up against their rapidly fading deciduous counterparts.
With each gust of crisp fall air, a few browning leaves fell. Underneath one particularly towering and distinguishable ash tree, a small, dainty, red-clad figure appeared. Upon further inspection, my mind distinguished said figure as a little girl, probably around five or six years of age. She was so blissful over such a simple pleasure; with each shiver inducing gust of wind, she twirled and giggled and rejoiced. After multiple failed attempts, a barren leaf finally landed in her grasping hand, resulting in the child celebrating to such an extent that she ended up rolling about on the grass. The girl in red was completely encapsulated in joy from the extremely underwhelming first shed of leaves for fifteen minutes, until her mother picked her up and forced her small, bright frame into a car seat. The charcoal colored lightly tinted windows allowed for my retinas to detect her tiny fist tapping on the window, leaf still in hand, before the mother and her Bluetooth headset whipped out of the driveway.
Time had escaped me to such an extent that when I went to sip my coffee, my tongue was greeted with a cold, shocking gulp. After reluctantly swallowing the sip, I closed my eyes momentarily, extending a blink in attempt to sink back into my own reality. My ears were greeted with the sadly familiar hum of a chainsaw- a logging company had taken a liking to the plot of land sandwiched in between my home and the parallel property a month ago. Distracted and occupied with all of the qualms of life, I hadn’t previously noticed that deforestation was practically knocking on my door. The heavy truth that so many woodland creatures are being brutally evicted right next door began to weigh heavily on my shoulders; although I consider myself a budding environmentalist, the vast habitat destruction hadn’t truly sunken in until this very moment.
Browning leaves are overlooked at an even higher extent than their later, colorful developments. They are looked at as a mere nuisance- we spend time and money blowing them off of our property with expensive machinery, or simply raking them into piles and disposing of them. When children, like the red girl, jump into the garbage bound piles, we sigh and rapidly grow annoyed; even more of our extremely finite time has now been wasted on something that could be simple without disruption.
Even though these leaves are viewed largely as an inconvenience, it is important to realize what life would be like without them; what life would be like lacking trees. Most everybody looks at deforestation as some distant, almost mystical issue, despite the fact that it is almost always closer than we think.
My thought process was rapidly interrupted by the sharp tinge of my mother’s voice, clearly angry “How do these people expect for anyone to do anything remotely productive with all of the noise they’re making? It’s eight AM, for God’s sake!” Despite her deeply rooted Christian beliefs, the commotion had invigorated her to such an extent that she used the Lord’s name in vain without batting an eye. The red hot anger spread rapidly across the top of her skin, as if someone was pressing a crimson marker of rage firmly enough upon the pale surface to result in rapid color bleeding. It didn’t take long, however, for the light yet refreshing fall air to cool her temper and restore some crooked order into her small, petite frame.With a heavy, slightly muffled sigh and creaky opening of our old french door, she trotted back inside in a much more rational attempt to drown out the noise of destruction.
My equally pale, shivering legs followed behind her after a brief pause. As my slipper-equipped feet toddled across the faux wood flooring and to the kitchen sink, I tipped the scarlet mug into the right, unoccupied side gently, yet controllably disposing of the moderately chilled fluid. I placed the newly emptied mug into the left side of the sink, which contained familiarly cooling liquid; this time soapy. With the familiar clunk of ceramic meeting stainless steel as the cup was not-so-elegantly introduced to the sink’s unforgiving bottom, I turned my heels and headed towards my bedroom. The sunny, yellow walls brutally invaded my pupils and attempted to block out the depressing thoughts growing more numerous by the moment. My feet continued along the white cushioned carpet until my eyes met a familiar gaze; their own. The elegant, turquoise mirror hung in a state of perfect imperfection upon the cheerful walls. As one of my great grandfather's later pieces barely prefacing his death, the craftsmanship was impeccable; each scroll and wooden damask brooch was hand carved and personally detailed. With each stroke of my soft, callous free finger, my nerves detected rough, practically invisible bumps. Even the seemingly perfect held imperfection somewhere within. My touch was rapidly jerked away from the mirror as I leaned backwards onto my queen sized, plush like bed and snapped back into the treacherous reality of my thoughts.
Quickly, I realized that the severity of my mother’s previous complaints merely furthered my points. More often than not, we view things like locally located logging as an annoyance rather than a possibly detrimental act. All around us, with each and every thoughtlessly harmless action, our world is falling down, just like the gently decomposing autumn leaves. Most everyone is blocking out the destruction of our mankind's one known home, and rather spectating eagerly with open eyes and strap equipped Nikon cameras. Children, ecstatic with the overwhelming stimulation of the many worldly wonders all around them, are innocently oblivious of the withering world we are bestowing upon them. The girl in the red coat’s vividly twinkling eyes will dim, and she will learn to overlook the fall of life as we know it; just as we have all learned throughout the trials and tribulations of survival. Perhaps she will move away upon the presentation of adulthood, and return to her old, rural homeland annually, with a similar, yet substantially diminished bliss for the leaves as she shows now. The world is the upcoming generations’ oyster; however, our expectations must remain realistically low when the only legacy we leave is a brittle shell, faithfully crumbling more each and every day. Only very recently did anyone start majorly realizing the effects of human kinds catastrophic destruction, and, somehow, we expect the children of tomorrow to fix the numerous issues generations’ past have, and continue to, blissfully ignore.