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Senior with Leaves

“Autumn Leaves” is an old, beloved song. Written in 1945 by Johnny Mercer and recorded by such popular greats as Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Eartha Kitt and more, the song is a lovely ode to not only the changing season and its effect on trees, but the feelings that those changes arouse. But I miss you most of all, my darling, when autumn leaves begin to fall.

Why leaves begin to fall is a matter of basic science. Decreasing sunlight and cooler temperatures cause a breakdown in the chlorophyll that gives leaves their green color. The dying pigments in the leaves thus put on a show of reds, yellows and oranges like it was their last – which it is, until next spring.

But the onset of fall evokes more than falling leaves; it creates visceral responses and memories in those fortunate enough to live in a climate that brings about a noticeable change in the seasons. (That’s us, here in zone 5.)

Chilly nights usher in cozy sweaters, crackling bonfires and the smell of burning leaves. Children (and many adults, too) thrill in the fun and fancy of Halloween. Clear, crisp mornings delight walkers and joggers who feel the crunch of leaves under their feet. Sundays become the domain of football fans everywhere, and college and universities know that aerial photos of their campuses carpeted with the splendor of fall color attract potential students like none other.

Indeed, fall is as much a feeling as a season. Though Naperville is a thriving metropolis of nearly 150,000 citizens, it is one of the best places to experience the special magic of autumn. Built to commemorate the city’s 150th anniversary in 1981, the Naperville Riverwalk is 1.75 miles of natural and man-made beauty in every season, but fall is perhaps its most shining moment.

For those who want a longer stroll, miles of prairie path in DuPage County beckon nature lovers to bear witness to a multitude of changing trees, shrubs, flowers, and native plants. For hikers and drivers alike, the Morton Arboretum in Lisle offers a Fall Color Festival to rival any New England vista.

Nearby cities boast fabulous pumpkin farms, featuring endless fields of the massive squash, plus mums, gourds, haybales/rides, and more. Notable are Johansen Farms in Bolingbrook, Sonny Acres in West Chicago and Danada Equestrian Center in Wheaton.

For the fun of it, Naperville embraces the fall season with a keen understanding of just how exciting it is. Community calendars brim with activities like a witch’s cauldron: Family Fall Fest, Bat Fest, Scarecrow Fest, Garlic Fest, Ghost Stories in the Dark – In the Park, Witches’ Night Out, All Hallow’s Eve: Village of Fear, Scare-illon concert at the Carillon, Halloween Hop, Fall Style Fest…the list goes on. On Monarch Landing’s calendar is a “Haunted Happy Hour,” to which residents and staff are encouraged to come in costume.

And when autumn leaves begin to fall across Monarch Landing’s acres upon acres of trees, paths and adjacent prairie, the best treat of all will be the one that only Mother Nature can conjure.