I love the beautiful colors that come with the changing of the foliage in the fall. In Chicago, it was usually in full swing by early-mid September and leaves actually began falling in late August.
Here in Virginia, however, the leaves normally doesn't start to turn in earnest until very late September and you can still find leaves on the trees as late as mid November some years. To me, the colors here in Virginia just seem more vivid than I remember them in Chicago.
The smell of burning leaves in the fall is another of those pleasant childhood memories etched in my mind. I remember the smell wafting through the neighborhood on weekend afternoons and evenings as everyone raked and burned their leaves....no prohibitions on it then.
Though my Dad and I raked them in the afternoon, he always waited until dusk or just after to burn them as he knew I enjoyed it that much more after dark. I loved that acrid-sweet smell. However, getting a concentrated dose of smoke in the face when the wind suddenly changed was not quite so pleasant as the eyes burned and watered for a couple moments . Sometimes it seemed, no matter where you stood, the wind would change in order to blow the smoke in your face. I also remember that, standing near the burning leaves, my front was always toasty warm while my back got chilled from the cool night air.
We moved to southern Mississippi in 1980 and we had over 50 large hardwood trees on our property and even more saplings and smaller trees; most were hardwoods. This meant there was never a shortage of leaves to rake. While I raked them myself, our daughters were all still young enough to get the same kick out of burning leaves that I'd gotten so many years earlier and we often conducted the leaf burning ritual together.
Arriving in Hawaii in 1984, the only tree in our yard was a 10 foot tall Gardenia in front of the house. Also, with the warmer climate, the leaves didn't fall like they do on the mainland and I don't remember any color change in them. After moving from Hawaii to northern Virginia in 1987, I discovered to my major disappointment that, while there were plenty of trees on our property, there was a prohibition against burning leaves.
When we left Virginia for South Carolina in 1991, I was happy to find no such prohibition on leaf burning. We had several hardwood along with some huge pines but, unfortunately, by this time Denise was no longer living with us and both Brandy and Carrie were just a little too "grown up" to participate anymore. Even so, I would still burn an occasional small pile of leaves just for nostalgic reasons.
Now, back in northern Virginia again, leaf burning is not allowed and I feel a bit sad that my grandchildren will miss the experience. Environmental protection is the stated reason for the ban but, while factories still throw millions of tons of pollutants into the air each year, you can get a citation for burning a little pile of leaves. Go figure! That said, I still occasionally put a small pile of leaves together on an Autumn Saturday and burn them for the grandkids. I figure I'll stop doing that when the government stops all those major industrial polluters.