Golden and glorious
The last two weeks in October are the most beautiful time to be in Bluff. The temperatures have dropped and the world suddenly seems to have turned golden.
Almost overnight, the cottonwood trees, which grow whenever they can find enough moisture to survive, are transformed into glorious shades of the brightest yellow imaginable.
We live in a land usually dominated by the soaring red rocks, brilliant blue sky, and green trees and plants that grow along the watercourses.
The coming of autumn provides a new and more vivid palette as, almost overnight, the trees grow thick with brilliant shades usually associated with sunflowers.
The shorter days of fall cause the angle of the sun to slant shafts of light through the leaves, revealing their brilliant yellow tops and golden undersides.
Cottonwoods, called teec by our Navajo neighbors, provide their main source of firewood for the winter months. It is the most commonly used wood for folk art carvers, and when dug up and dried, is the medium favored by Hopi kachina artists.
A visit to the San Juan River at nearby Sand Island reveals the entire valley alive with the golden hues. Wind blows through the tree branches and the entire scene comes alive with color and movement.
Those floating down the river on their inflatable rafts, canoes, and kayaks are treated to an ever-changing display of nature at its most decorative.
Along the banks of the San Juan, when the sun drops far enough in the day to backlight the cottonwoods, an explosion of brightness lines the southern river bank.
This seasonal display is special because it lasts such a short time. In less than two weeks, the season advances enough to strip the trees of their color, and then their leaves.
Since a brief freeze a few nights ago, our valley floor is now decorated by the formerly brilliant leaves. For the next few months, before they decay and blow away, we are treated to a carpet of burnished old-gold cottonwood leaves.
We know we face several months of bare branches, but come spring, a new canopy of green growth will provide us with shade and rustling noises.
Along with the new growth, we will also recall that special time of the year when the yellow cottonwood leaves decorate the landscape of Bluff, UT.