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How would you explain “tighten” in the context?

 

Roots of a large gray birch clung to the side of the rock and went down into the ground where it leveled off into a clearing next to the creek. The leaves in the canopies of central Virginia’s hardwood forests had begun their pre-autumnal yellow tightening and they hung over the clearing and the creek and the light fell through them in a way that I was fond of and the morning was kind of soft-edged and clumsy like I’d been seeing it through gauze.

How would you explain “tighten” in “The leaves in the canopies of central Virginia’s hardwood forests had begun their pre-autumnal yellow tightening…”
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For learning: English
Base language: English
Category: Language

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    It could be two-fold in this case (as literature diction often is), and I presume there is a major and minor meaning here:

    major: the leaves are "tightening" = "becoming taught" thus allowing the light to to fall through the foliage as if through "gauze".

    minor: the leaves are "yellow tightening" = "covered in the color yellow".

    reference:http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/tight #2 and #5, respectively.

     

    Tighten can be used in a number of ways to describe different things, but in this case, I want you to think about your skin right after you get out of the shower and how it feels- wet, soft, very flexible. But, as the water dries from the skin, it starts to feel less soft, less flexible and it doesn't move as easily. The same thing happens to trees in the fall. The leaves start to dry up as they die, making them more brittle as they 'tighten' due to less moisture because of the dying process. Think of how your skin tightens when it shrinks because it is dry, but then, after you put lotion on, and the moisture is returned to your skin, it feels softer.

    So 'tighten' in this context, describes the less soft and pliable way leaves become right before they die and fall off trees.

    If you need further clarification, feel free to message me. Hope I didn't confuse you.

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