I first came across legerdemain at a Chicago summer carnival when I was a teen. It was written on a huge ratty banner that promised some magician’s act that no longer existed in the carnival. (If you’ve ever watched the HBO show Carnivale, it would have fit right in) The Chicago carnival might have had such a show once, but when I visited it was only scary, rickety rides, rigged BB guns for targets, and sorry-looking games that were next to impossible to win. The wordie I was destined to become demanded I discover what legerdemain meant. I recall it wasn’t an easy find. It comes from the late Middle English legerdemeyn which is a turn on the old Middle French lygarde de mayne which literally means light of hand.
Why did such a word pop into my head? Because I looked out the kitchen window and couldn’t help but notice the leaves are changing. It literally happened overnight. The hazel bush outside my kitchen window was green yesterday and flaming orange today. Light of hand if ever there was. I love the visual magic that does a now you see it, now you don’t transformation on the trees. Especially when they slip into their autumn finery overnight. It’s a surprise — a gift to the eyes.
Would you believe only the basic mechanics of this leaf-changing wonder are known to science? To get those vibrant red colors we love this time of year, the tree needs a perfect blend of circumstances. A variety of factors figure in to the deciduous tree’s leaf life– environmental influences like temperature, rainfall, and variables of soil nutrients are a few. The most brilliant colors are tied to this favorable mix: a warm wet spring, a moderate summer, and cool and crisp autumn nights followed by warm and sunny days. There’s a lot to this process.
During the fall, leaf veins close and food production begins to shut down for the winter. Deciduous trees need to pump their sap to the roots where freezing winter temperatures can’t harm their delicate vascular system. Warm sunny days inspire the leaves to produce sugars, but with closing veins there’s no way to send it all to the roots. The anthocyanin pigments come into play when lots of sugars are present in the leaves. This chemical makes the vibrant reds, crimsons, purples, and browns that take your breath away.
One major factor in this summer/fall changeover has to do with the steady increase of night. In the northern hemisphere, our days grow shorter and nights grow longer and colder this time of year. Less sunlight inspires certain chemical processes of the tree to get involved. All through the growing season, a tree makes chlorophyll for photosynthesis and this chemical makes leaves appear green. In the long cold nights of autumn, the chlorophyll production slows then eventually stops altogether for winter. Once the chlorophyll is no longer a factor, the other chemicals already present in the leaves can finally be seen. These are the carotenoids (yellows and oranges). The seasons change from south to north and from east to west, and that means the east coast of the United States gets the colors first. And I love every day of it.
If you missed me at Author Denysé Bridger’s Fantasy Pages this week,
Read my post here.
>>Coming in November:
We’d Rather Be Writing – a multi-author cookbook and time-saving tips.
Kindle pre-order now. Paperback on the way.
Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul.
Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.
~Ralph Vaull Starr
Today is Author Melissa Keir’s blog day
Romance Books ‘4’ Us
The October contest is on! We have $100 in gift cards for Amazon/B&N. Other prizes often include ebooks, print books, audiobooks, additional gift cards, and non-book items.