Slowly, but as surely as ever, the outdoors fade from glorious summer to tired winter. Sleeves that only just covered the shoulders begin to cover elbows, and soon will cover wrists. The occasional evergreen stands in ever-increasing contrast to its surroundings. But instead of monotonic thermal decline, the natural world offers one last burst of vibrancy, a burst that makes autumn the loveliest time of year to live in the Pioneer Valley.

According to Forbes Magazine, Amherst College is the 13th best college or university in the United States.

It is not Amherst College’s most impressive ranking. However, it is not college ranking systems that I want to talk about. Rather, the subject of this column will be Forbes’ presentation of Amherst College.

In particular, I was struck by a link on Forbes’ webpage that brings viewers to a small photography gallery, meant to exhibit Amherst’s essence through a collage of images.

When you call a woman beautiful, what are you saying about her?

Any number of factors could go into beauty’s assignation. In the case of works of art, for instance, beauty could result from symmetries and harmonies, artistic skill and handicraft, poignancy of theme or the work’s placement and ambiance. When people call art beautiful, they could be referring to any or all of those qualities.