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Autumn sonata. A tale of leaves and Austrian pines in Vienna

Fall is red carpet time for some trees. For pines it’s a season like the others. Our friend Arthur Cislach takes us on a stroll full of foliage and pine needles.

Autumn is in the air! Wandering through the mighty Vienna woods the other day I came to reflect on the difference between tree leaves. Moving gently above my head, the leaves of beech, maple and oak trees were waiting for the inevitable. As the nights get colder, the days shorter and the morning fog slowly becomes an all-day event, it is time for the deciduous trees of the northern hemisphere to prepare for their grand performance.

Steadfast and wholly unfazed by the year’s events they were about to put on one of the greatest spectacles on earth. Tentatively starting at the outmost branches, the bright colors inexorably move trunkwards; soon engulfing the whole tree in vibrant sun yellow, scarlet red, Dutch orange or frosted copper.

Together they are forming the world’s largest, and dare I say most beautiful, impressionistic painting, that is even visible from space. For us to enjoy completely free of entrance, queues or even, some distance provided, risk of infection.

Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder: do they put on this dazzling show, in order to distract from their scraggly appearance during the winter month?

Walking on I suddenly came by a group of beautifully gnarly Austrian pine trees, immediately reminding me of some of my favorite Japanese ink wash paintings. They, in contrast to their deciduous relatives, were standing completely calm; as if they knew that the coming spectacle was none of their concern.

Pine Trees by artist Hasegawa Tohaku

Elegant evergreens simply don ́t need all this fuzz. After all, do they stay wonderfully in shape for the entirety of the year, no necessity for a flashy distraction. For them the autumn is, at most, an opportunity to phase out the very oldest of their leaves; letting the season’s storms take care of the rest. Right from the start they must have known that durability is everything when it comes to the choice of leaves.
Sure, needles might not be the most colorful or most efficient, but they always deliver, come sunshine or snowfall. Protected on the outside by an extra thick layer of waxy cutin and containing huge amounts of vitamin C, antioxidants and antimicrobial substances they are the delicate tank of leaves. And also one of the most flavorful!

Used since millennia to fend off scurvy in northern latitudes, they are not only healthy but also exceedingly tasty, with their aromas reaching from fresh green and resinous notes to citrussy and nutty flavors. In my kitchen I like to use them for everything, from pesto and smoothies to spices and teas. Particularly the latter makes for a delightful aromatic brew on
rainy autumn days.

When drinking it I enjoy to toy with the idea that it somehow imparts a bit of the pine’s durable serenity. Something we all could surely use these days.

by Arthur Cislach