It was late summer when I first moved from Dhaka to a small town called Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. I shared a townhouse with four University of Waterloo students and it had a maple tree right in front of it. My classes started in September and the first few weeks went by very fast. I had to attend orientations, TA trainings, classes, read thick books and even thicker books to understand those thick books— I was busy. Soon, fall crept in and for me, it was a sudden discovery. I suddenly noticed the maple tree in front of my house was not dark green anymore. The crown of the tree was bright orange and the rest was a beautiful light green. I have never seen fall foliage before so the beauty of fall bedazzled me, quite literally.
The next few weeks as I walked around the campus; I only found new colors. The shrub near the Dana Porter library was not dark green anymore. It was bright fuchsia! By mid October, the colors were at peak. Of course, I have seen fall colors in movies but when the leaves started to change colors, my campus and neighborhood looked more like a pop-up storybook about a magical kingdom. Canadian fall has absolutely nothing in common with any season in Bangladesh. In Canada, it rains in fall. The rain is cold, gloomy, and extremely uninspiring. There is nothing refreshing about the rain in Canada. It rains for 5 minutes and then drizzles for a good 20 minutes that’s about it. Yet, Canadian fall reminded me of Bangladesh.
When the green leaves of Sugar Maple, Oak, Poplar and Birch change their colors, they don’t have a unanimous choice. The most ubiquitous colors of fall are yellow and orange. These shades of yellow and orange are just like the yellow and orange of ripe banana, orange, sunflower, marigold or turmeric root. Some trees turn completely red and that particular red looks exactly like my mother’s favorite fruit: lychee. Before the leaves take on a different hue, they become a slightly lighter shade of green. Often times it’s a shade of green similar to a parrot or star-fruit. On a bright, sunny day of fall, the sky is vivid blue with still, fluffy white clouds. I was familiar with these exact shades, just not on trees. I had seen them in Chadni Chawk, where my friend and I used to buy ornas and fabrics for our matching salwar-kameezes. I had seen them in fruit markets of Shantinagar and in my mother’s sharee collection. I had seen them in holuds and in bridal trousseaus.
Even though I was baffled by this alien season, it resembled with my newly abandoned home. Fall made the transition of settling abroad easier for me. It was chilly, yet comforting. Bizarre, yet familiar. Even after spending so many years in Ontario it still fascinates me the same way it did the first time. If spring is like a beautiful love affair, fall can be easily described as a grand Bangladeshi holud, followed by a grand wedding and a mundane marriage called winter. The beauty of Canadian fall can barely be captured by any gadget. So every fall, I try to go to a provincial park to just gawk at the nature. I hike through the recommended trails and collect fall leaves of different colors but then leave them at the entrance of the park. Just like my fiction collection at my parent’s house in Dhaka, I leave them where they belong, bringing only the memories with me.