Hello Fellow Readers,
Last week during a road walk with Miss Ellie, I admired waves of golden leaves showing their glory. Yes, many had dropped to the ground brown before they ever had a chance to change color. But they are beautiful too. Like the fields of corn that have turned tawny tan after providing their bounty.
The night before, I had the privilege of attending a performance of Chasing Rainbows – The Road to Oz at Papermill Theater in Milburn, NJ. In an early scene, when the actress playing Judy is with her dad, she opens a box of ruby-colored shoes and joyfully slips them on her feet. “How do they feel,” her dad asked?
“Not as good as they look.”
“Life can be like that,” his fatherly words of wisdom. The scene flashes back to tell the story of the rise of Judy Garland to her famous leading role in The Wizard of Oz.
Judy Garland’s real name was Frances Ethel Gumm, who began her career in vaudeville in a three-sister act. She was an underdog. Not the classic beauty sought after at the time. As a teen, she was encouraged to take diet pills and other things to lessen her weight, suppress her appetite, and keep up her energy. So began Garland’s history of drug use.
Of course, the iconic song from the Wizard of Oz played a significant part in the musical. Over the Rainbow was written in 1939 during the beginning of the oppression of Jews in Europe. Yip Harburg wrote the lyrics; his real name was Isidore Hochberg, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants. Harold Arlen composed the music, nee Hyman Arluck, also Jewish, whose parents immigrated from Lithuania. Learning the history and heritage of the songwriters brings a new light to their song of hope after the storm.
Another bit of wisdom shared in the dialogue of Chasing Rainbows was the reflection that as beautiful as rainbows are, they fade away. But so does the rain.
The musical ended with a powerful scene when Garland took off the frilly gingham red checkered dress and blond wig, declaring that they contradicted the meaning of the song. From now on, she’s going to act the role in the spirit of who she is. The audience exploded in applause over her bravery and commitment to living her true self. Then came the grand finale of Over the Rainbow, which was sung with astonishing finesse by Ruby Rakos, who played Judy Garland.
Thinking about the lessons inspires a reflection of our spotty fall color due to our September draught —After a wet growing season, which left most in anticipation of a spectacular fall. Recall last year’s heavy rains and an end-of-summer heatwave that also lessened the glorious hues. And the year before that, how the growing season provided a perfect platform for foliar disease and a drab fall start. But there was a grand finale thanks to the maples that seemed to turn brilliant red and orange right before our eyes.
Ideal conditions for fall color are a moist growing season (not soggy) followed by a dry fall (not draught) with sunny, warm days and cool nights. But life (and weather) is not perfect. It’s a matter of seeing the beauty within and beyond the clouds and over the rainbows. Garden Dilemmas? AskMaryStone@gmail.com
Check out the previous column on Why Leaves Change Color 101 and link to the podcast featuring Chasing Rainbows & Leaves