Thursday, October 4, 2007


Each year one of my more pessimistic friends says, "After the
Fourth of July, it's all downhill as far as summer goes." And I suppose he
is correct. Before we know it, it is time for the county fair and for the schools to re-open. And we look around to see a number of summer chores still undone. We recall plans for summer activities that we never got around to.
Sad to say, the older we get, the faster time seems to fly. Each year more and more of those wonderful plans have to be postponed, hoping we get around to them next summer.
So, ready or not, autumn arrives. About the only negative thing we can say about this season is that we know it will be followed by the ice and snow of winter. Occasionally a gray fall day can trigger a bit of sadness as we watch the summer plants and flowers wither and die. But this year it would almost be a pleasure to watch our large lawn turn brown. The frequent rains have kept it green and growing without letup. I don't remember a year when the grass required this much mowing.
Autumn here in the Midwest would be a difficult time not to enjoy, even if we tried. Temperatures are usually mild, neither too hot nor too cold. And the hills and river bluffs take on brilliant hues that are a welcome change after all the lush green of summer. We watch hills covered with maple trees turn red and orange. Oaks take on darker reds and browns.
At times, when walking through stands of birch and aspen trees on a dark, gray day, we almost feel that the bright yellow leaves are emitting a golden light of their own. Plain weeds like goldenrods are suddenly flowers, with their own special color. The red of the sumac decorates many country roadsides, and the leaves of the ivy vines that climb and twine their way high up into tall trees take on their own special eye-catching deep red hue.
I no longer hunt, and don't get out into the woods and fields as I once did. And I don't pick up and hull and dry black walnuts anymore. I wouldn't mind having a few butternuts, but those trees are no longer as plentiful as they once were. Harvesting hickory nuts always seemed to be a matter of beating the squirrels to them. Usually I came in second best. I remember picking hazelnuts when I was younger, and drying them until their fuzzy husks popped open, releasing the hidden nuts.
I haven't seen any of those plants for a long time. I wonder if any or many of the woodland pastures still have sizable stands of hazel brush.
In autumn, our migrating birds leave for warmer climes and the wild geese often honk at us as they fly by overhead. Hibernating animals put on an extra layer of fat to carry them through the winter. The ones that will be out in the cold weather grow denser, warmer fur. And we humans get our snow shovels around, or else tune up our snow blowers. Because winter is now on the way.


Brilliant autumn leaves all muted
By low fog clouds, hanging gray,
And there's just a hint of winter
In the mid-October day.

Beaver have been busy cutting
Saplings for their winter feed.
Squirrels frisk through final harvest,
Gathering the nuts they'll need.

Red fox looking sharp and sassy,
Fur approaching winter prime;
Chubby woodchuck, fat and ready
To sleep through the wintertime.

White-tailed buck attacks the bushes,
Slashes a defenseless tree.
Soon his antlers will be burnished,
From the itching velvet free.

Somewhere in the hazy distance
Wild geese sound their haunting cry.
A great day for reminiscing;
One more summer has slipped by.

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