By Bruce Stambaugh
Plain and simple, autumn has her way with me. I’m in love with fall for so many reasons. Let me count the ways.
The dazzling leaves mesmerize me. I could sit and ponder the various color patterns and striations of a single leaf for hours on end, but only if my wife isn’t home.
I am captivated by how rapidly the leaves on some trees alter their colors, while the same species nearby stands pat as if it were still July. Still others give up the ghost altogether, and simply shed all of their leaves within hours. It’s both a marvel and a mystery.
Neighbors have a lovely sugar maple shade tree that holds a majority of its leaves verdant well into October. The rest blush blotches of fire engine red as if the tree’s perfect canopy had chicken pox. In the end, all the leaves succumb, temporarily covering the ground below with a warm blanket of red, yellow and orange.
The usually boisterous and bossy Blue Jays fly stealthily in pairs from one hardwood grove to the next. Back and forth they go in pairs, uncommonly silent. Are they storing acorns for the winter ahead? They wouldn’t say.
Not so with a gang of American Robins, long absent from our yard. They suddenly reappeared, chirping and chasing one another from treetop to yard to creek bank like it was spring again. I enjoyed their little entreaty even though, like the Blue Jays, I had no idea what they were up to.
I’m content to sit on the porch during fall’s balmy weather, watch the American Goldfinches, Black-capped Chickadees and White-breasted Nuthatches devour the expensive sunflower hearts. So doing enhances my daydreamer image.
With windows open on temperate nights, the crickets and the luscious coolness lull me to sleep until my wife pokes me to stop the snoring, or the Screech Owl startles me from the backyard pines. I note both admonitions, roll onto my side and dream on.
The grass is spring green one week and dull and prickly the next. Blessed fall rains ensure the difference.
Fox squirrels and chipmunks scurry to find whatever they can to hoard for the coming cold. I wish they had better memories. Next May dozens of red oak and black walnut saplings will verify the varmints’ mental lapses.
Flocks of Canada Geese sail in imbalanced V’s over burnished treetops, cackling their way from one farm pond to the other. Lore says that near-sighted and neurotic Puritans imagined them as witches flying on broom handles. It’s ironic that the religious runaway paranoia inadvertently created a very successful commercial Halloween tradition.
Foggy mornings bring cool moisture that transforms secreted spider’s webs into glistening gems. The stunning natural artistry leaves me speechless, which may be for the best.
A sudden gust blows through the fragile leaves of a poplar tree, cascading a golden shower onto an emerald carpet that had only been raked hours before. Eventually, heavy rains or perhaps an early snow will bring them all down, ringing in the barren times once again. It’s a necessary part of life’s endless cycle.
Fields of corn, once huge waves of tasseled emerald, now show more brittle brown. Corn shocks already dot fields farmed by those who distain machinery.
Hungry birds have devoured all of the bright red berries of the dogwood trees. In protest, the dogwoods’ crimson leaves have one by one fluttered to the ground.
I’m in love with fall. Can you tell?
© Bruce Stambaugh 2013