“No season appeals to the eyes as much as autumn; no season touches the souls as powerfully as autumn and no season invites us to the world of mournful thoughts as intensely as autumn!” So wrote Mehmet Murat ildan, the Turkish novelist. Autumn’s colors, indeed, move us like no other season’s can. Why is it that we, as humans, are so attracted to those rich colors of autumn leaves as we move toward winter?
Something missing in the land of the Saguaro cactus
Nearly two decades ago our family moved from the ever-lingering damp of the Pacific Northwest to plop down in Arizona. We became confirmed desert rats. The old Northwesterner’s joke about having moss between the toes was happily left behind. And imagine wearing shirtsleeves outdoors in December while the bulk of the country suffered heart attacks while shoveling snow. Yeah, the Desert Southwest—you just can’t beat it!
Well, maybe. There is definitely one thing missing in the land of the Saguaro cactus: A broad spectrum of color. Yes, Arizonans are arguably blessed with spectacular sunsets. And when there’s been an abundance of monsoon rain, spring can boast some breathtaking flower displays, carpeting the otherwise dusty brown desert floor. But autumn leaves? Nada.
This year, a delayed tour caught us in Nevada’s hill country in October. While much of the area is covered in brush, a side trip up into Lincoln County’s higher elevation brought us to something we hadn’t seen in years: autumn leaves. Had we ever seen a broader range of color in leaves? Certainly! But even this range of mostly-yellows and a bit of orange just did something. “No season touches the soul,” indeed. So why is it that autumn leaves touch us so much? Seems there’s a “scientific explanation,” as if it’s really needed.
Some in the scientific community might wonder why it is we humans have a seemingly unnecessary ability. That is, the ability to discern such a wide range of colors. It’s not “needed” for our survival—we could get along in a monochrome world. But being able to appreciate the full spectrum of color provided by autumn leaves certainly gives us happiness.
Color, say researchers, affects our emotions. While there’s no universal agreement among all, it seems the consensus is that warm colors tend to bring out warm feelings. And autumn leaves are indeed in that warm color family. When it comes to colors and feelings, here’s what some psychologists say.
Red, the warmest of the colors, can lead some to feel passionate and full of energy. It’s been found to increase the heart rate.
Orange, like red, can cause an increase in mental energy and enthusiasm.
Yellow makes people feel happy and seems to encourage spontaneity. When we see yellow, we often feel happiness, optimism, and cheer. In the world today, perhaps we could use a bit more yellow!
Blue. Although we don’t recall ever seeing a blue autumn leaf, doing a “leaf peeping” tour under a blue sky is a great combination. Blue tends to bring on feelings of safety and relaxation. Some say it evokes calmness, even spirituality. Blue causes our bodies to produce calming chemicals.
Do-it-yourself science experiment
OK, enough for the theory. How about the practice? What better thing for us as RVers is to prove the point. If you live in the desert, it may be a considerable ride to find autumn leaves. So pack up the rig and head out toward color country. For us, dropping the RV in a park and using the tow rig to strike out across the country worked great. Not only were we able to catch the breathtaking views of autumn leaves, but a family of wild turkeys also crossed our path. Autumn is full—or is it fall—of surprises. Find out for yourself.
All photos, R&T De Maris, click to enlarge.
Find autumn leaves with the 2022 Fall Foliage Prediction Map
Nice article- I love the Fall colors.
If you are in Tucson just a short drive up the Catalina Highway to Mt. Lemmon will bring you to fall color. Many of the “Sky Islands” in Arizona are accessible and produce very nice displays of Fall color. Aspen, Maple, Oak and more. They may be a little later in the season but very nice.
You need to venture up to Camp Verde, Arizona at cottonwood time.
It’s also hard to watch fall colors in central FL.
Yep we can see all kinds of colors EXCEPT for red and yellow traffic lights. Be careful, stay safe and enjoy the fall colors.
What a great article. I’m staying outside Las Cruces, NM in a pecan grove and I love the changing scenery outside my window. Across the street is the Rio Grande and the Robledo Mountains and the subtleness of the season change is amplified by the sounds of the migrating birds stopping for what little water is still in the river. There is so much the desert has to offer.