First time foliage: MN autumn through foreigners’ eyes


From his desk window, Carlos Merino Maestre watches as a gust of wind causes it to rain yellow leaves. To a Minnesotan, that sight means the onslaught of scarves, mittens, and heating bills. To Merino Maestre, a Spanish visitor, it’s magical. For Deepu Thankachan the cool weather is a welcome contrast to the steaming humidity of his hometown in India. The two men are both experiencing their first fall in Minnesota. Their impressions offer a glimpse into what Minnesota autumn looks like though fresh eyes.

From Málaga to Minnesota

Turning down Fairlawn Drive, Carlos braked. “Right… here,” he said. “I wish I had a camera.” He peered out the front windshield at the road ahead where fallen leaves, now crunchy, gathered along the curb. The tree’s bright reds and golds framed a perfect piece of sky. From the passenger seat inside his Geo Tracker, the warm, orange afternoon light tricked Carlos into believing that it was more than 40 degrees outside.

Merino Maestre, 30, left southern Spain for Minneapolis in late August, making this his first autumn.

“If you want to know autumn, Minnesota is the place to experience it,” he said later that day sitting at the kitchen table in front of a window looking out on the backyard. “What I’ve seen here is the iconic image I have always had of the fall…It’s absolutely spectacular—an explosion of color,” he said. “That yellow-mustard color—that’s my favorite.” Merino Maestre, an illustrator and graphic designer who is taking a photography class at Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount, naturally appreciates color.

While Carlos prefers his Mediterranean hometown’s summer climate, he says he is content to be in Minnesota this fall and winter, convinced he will actually be warmer in Minnesota for winter than he usually is in Málaga during the year’s colder months. This is especially true in his house, which dates to at least to 1715 and was once a monastery.

“Old houses, like mine, are really cold in the winter. There are lots of drafty corridors, and we have no central heat. And it’s scary and nerve-wracking every time it rains during our winter season, because the roof leaks.”

Back on Fairlawn Drive, Merino Maestre eventually took his foot off the car brake. But a block later he stopped again.

“Wait, wait, wait… Here,” he said. “Here would make a great photo, too.”

Trading in the tropics for the fall peak

Several months earlier, Deepu Thankachan, a thirty-year-old bound for the Twin Cities to live with his girlfriend, arrived at the airport in a thin light weight brown button up shirt. His suitcases didn’t contain a single article of winter clothing.

“We don’t use any winter clothing,” explained Thankachan. Winter, as Minnesotans know it, doesn’t exist where he comes from.

“It’s about 95 degrees right now back in Allepy,” remarked Thankachan about his hometown in Southern India.

Despite his warm upbringing, Thankachan enjoys the cool-weather. He admitted, “I actually prefer this weather in Minnesota more than how it is in India right now.”

He had a taste of the snow when he arrived in Minnesota last in April. Thankachan recently went to Target and purchased a black, lightweight fall jacket, an important first step in what will soon become an all-new winter wardrobe.

During the summer, he biked the Minnesota trail system, but since it has turned cooler Thankachan hasn’t gone out as much. However, that’s not because he shied away from the now nippy air.

“I was waiting for the peak,” he declared, “the peak when all the leaves had finally changed color.”