I couldn't believe my eyes.

"Look at the leaves," I said. "They're changing colors already!"

We were en route to Philadelphia for a friend's wedding and, sure enough, the trees along the Jersey Turnpike were beginning to reveal their brilliant shades of yellow, orange and red. I know, when you think of breath-taking images of fall foliage, Jersey is probably the last place on your mind.

I'm no science geek but I think there's something so cool about this natural process. The U.S. Forest Service tells me it largely has to do with the increasing length of night, and that weather also plays a part. I know, though, that for me it's a welcome reminder that fall has arrived.

Yep, it's that time of year again -- autumn in New England. And it's my favorite season.

Maybe it's because everyone's trying to cram in as much activity as possible before old man winter rears his head and we all hunker down in our homes, but it just seems like there is so much going on in our quaint coastal communities. Nearly every weekend brings with it an outdoor festival of some sort, soccer and football games and a basket of other activities that are perfect for individuals and families. Chances are, no matter how varied your interests, that you'll find something great to do on the pages of this newspaper, or on our website.

Aside from these special events, some activities seem to just come out of necessity, or habit -- or perhaps both. Yes, after the leaves are done putting on a show, they fall. Maybe that's where the season gets its name ...

Rustling in a brisk breeze and crunching beneath our feet, the leaves are the sound of the season. They are as much the canvas as they are the brush.

Artists and photographers attempt to capture their beauty. We make stencils with them and iron them between two pieces of wax paper. And we rake them into huge piles so that the neighborhood kids can make a mess when they jump and play in them. We stuff them into scarecrows and bags and dump piles into our backyard compost.

We have taken this natural life cycle and made it a part of our social fabric -- weaved it into our communal and familial consciousness.

Perhaps part of what makes fall so special is that it makes abundantly clear to us that nature is alive -- that it is constantly changing while simultaneously carrying on tradition.

The leaves turn colors. They fall, and then slowly decompose until they become part of the soil that gave them life.

The trees also bare fruit. And we enjoy their bounty each year. Apple-picking is a favorite past-time in my family. I always enjoyed the challenge of using the pole to pluck the apples from high up on the trees -- a skill that I never quite mastered, as evidenced by the bruises the apples sustained when they hit the ground. I guess those were good for apple sauce?

Apple juice, cider, pie, donuts ... I could go on and on, but then I'd sound like Bubba in Forest Gump (substitute shrimp for apple).

I can almost smell these delicious treats already. They're certainly way more enticing than the horrid odors coming back home through Jersey.

Gary Jeanfaivre is the editor of the Fairfield Citizen and Westport News. He can be reached at gjeanfaivre@bcnnew.com