Monday, October 24, 2016

Mooween State Park, October

Mid-October in Connecticut is an exercise in delayed gratification. Social media (and, you know, regular media) is saturated with spectacular photographs of peak foliage in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine, and it feels like the whole world has burst into beautiful glowing flames and everyone else is out frolicking in the splendor. But here in Connecticut, we still have some days, even weeks, to wait.

It is true that you can't step outside without spotting a tree that's turned a shade of shimmering peach or tangerine, and that here and there, in a vine wrapped around a tree trunk or a branch reflected in a pond, is a dash of brilliant red. But too many of our trees are still wearing their summer green for it to really feel like fall. If you're impatient, or prone to Instagram-induced FOMO, you might start to wonder if we'll ever get the full-on foliage, or if all the drama will pass us by.

But every year I have to remind myself that it would be a shame if I failed to appreciate this moment. The beauty of these subtle colors, these golden woods with pale streaks of pink and orange, is highly underrated.

At Mooween State Park on Red Cedar Lake in Lebanon, I found a trail surrounded by yellow leaves. By the shore, and high up in the trees, there were hints of bolder colors to come.

This park was once a camp for boys, Camp Mooween, and it's a fitting place to attempt to capture the essence of early autumn on camera. It was here, in 1922, that a teacher and inventor named Barney "Cap" Girden introduced a 13-year-old named Edwin Herbert Land to the science behind polarization, demonstrating how "a filter fashioned from a clear calcite crystal...screened light waves to eliminate the glare from a tabletop." Land would remain obsessed with light and reflection, and go on become an inventor, an advisor to President Eisenhower on military technology, and the founder of Polaroid.

For purposes of this post, it would be a better story if Land had been inspired to create the instant camera by the sight of Red Cedar Lake's early autumn leaves. And who knows, if summer camps were fall camps, perhaps he would have been.

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