Look who floated in with the sycamore leaves this past week.
Look who floated in with the sycamore leaves this past week.
There is a nip in the air, here on the Cutoff; not yet a first frost, but an unmistakable chill that calls out for hearty soups and warm shawls, a good book and cups of steaming tea. Bittersweet has appeared at floral shops, and rows upon rows of pumpkins line every supermarket entrance as we entertain thoughts of Jack-o-Lanterns and pumpkin pie.
Daily, now, I take a stroll to the back of our property. I look to the left in dismay at the increasingly greater amount of trees that have been felled, the mountain of sawdust and the towers of logs. I plot, in my mind, how to make this all work to our advantage, all-the- while walking, shuffling, in the fallen leaves. It is the soft, slightly muffled sound and the crunch that brings me comfort in the flowing of seasons, one unto another, that I love so much about living here in middle America.
To the right, there are a few puffballs and I make mental notes to check them daily to monitor their growth, remembering the king of puffballs that we gently lifted and took to a nature center last year.
Ground zero brings fairy rings, dancing in the autumnal sunlight, sheltering fairies, I’m certain. Who else so expertly takes the caps off of acorns that are scattered about?
Whatever annuals remain now in pots are ravaged. The deer in the night, bold enough to come straight up to the house for midnight snack. Coleus salad, potato vine pie, and a nip of moon vine for the road; a regular frat party on the campus of the University of the Cutoff.
Much of the weekend was spent cutting back peonies, raking out withered ferns, and pulling the weeds that were hidden under so much growth. It is good to see the soil again, find the gazing ball that was hidden from view, and to watch the birds in a mad frenzy glean the seeds and insects that suddenly appear. It is a good time of year to take stock of what is, and to dream of what can be.
It is also time to clear out our plot in the community garden. I harvested a good hat full of tomatoes last week, and Tom and I gathered more this weekend. Soon, very soon, the plants will be pulled and composted, the fencing will come down, and we will sigh a good sigh at the fruits we reaped from our efforts as well as the sense of community that prevailed.
Now, where is that shawl – oh, there, draped on Aunt Ethel’s old cane rocking chair, just waiting for me and a book.
They cleave to white feathers that will hitch upon an autumn breeze and arise again as milkweed.
I am harvesting these from the milkweed we have here and will toss them in a designated area here on the Cutoff, hoping to grow a bigger patch; hoping to help sustain Monarchs.
I will leave the rest of the pods to mark their own paths, but, shhh, don’t tell my neighbors.
I am invigorated by the cooler temperatures, especially come nightfall, eager to don the colors of spice that wear better on me than the seashores of summer. It is good weather for sleeping and good weather for walking, for pumpkin bread and hearty stews, and Robert Frost’s poetry about mending fences and hired hands, for harvesting crops and for candles glowing through window panes.
Yep! I love Autumn.
As we dip into Autumn here in the Northern Hemisphere, we find each day a wee bit shorter. The slant of the sun cuts deeper. Dusk arrives a moment earlier than the day before. There is a change in the air, imperceptible at first, more certain when the Harvest Moon arrives.
This is the most magical of seasons as nature slowly prepares for winter. Where would we be without Autumn? What force of nature would strew seeds from summer’s bounty with such precision? Where we get a palette of colors so rich and varied and inviting?
Here on the Cutoff, the squirrels are busy gathering nuts. One leapt across the lawn yesterday, short hops then long leaps, the letter S in perpetual motion. He had a walnut, still in its husk, wedged in his mouth, and looked like a fur-bit carrying a holiday ornament in search of a fir tree. He stopped in his serpentine movements, gave me the once-cover, then scurried away, with nary a sound. To chatter would have meant losing the walnut he fully intended to bury somewhere. He’ll never remember where, but, bury it he will. Maybe, just maybe, a tree will grow from his long-forgotten stash.
The deer have begun their rut. It is quite a sight to behold. I always know when a buck is around by the leaping and running of the does. It’s a wonder to watch them in their homecoming dance; myself a chaperone from the window. Careful observation usually finds a randy stag on the perimeter, choosing just the right girl to waltz with.
Birds swoop in masses, eat seeds, and drink from the bird baths. Some will stay for the winter. Most will fly south to warmer climes. Soon, we will hear the gurgling trumpets of sandhill cranes high above the clouds. Canadian geese will gather and fly in their signature V pattern as they head to their seasonal refuges. The hummingbirds and wren will venture south.
For me, it is time to begin clearing out the potted plants. The heat, then the cool weather and forceful winds that came through have had their way with some sorry specimens that need to be culled. This is a welcome chore, however, for the vegetation will make its way to the compost heap; fodder for worms and the rich, new blankets of soil to enrich our gardens.
Autumn, itself, is fodder for the coming year. It is a slow preparation for the long winter months , but, I’m getting ahead of the seasons in thinking that, for first there is Autumn to enjoy, with all its color and richness, scents and excitement. It is fodder for the soul.
Off I got, a-pottering.
We wandered a bit around Lake Katherine, watching the swans preen on their little island, the ducks sunning on a fallen log, and the geese taking turns being first as they maneuvered overhead. It was a crisp, late summer day; more a prelude to fall than a nod to summer. There were several photographers out and about, catching the birds, the slant of the sun on goldenrod, the passage of time with their cameras.
It was a short walk for we had endured a rough week and tired. Walking back, a young couple were seen hanging on to a canoe, each one blaming the other for capsizing. The water is shallow in Lake Katherine, so they were in no danger, except, perhaps on their car ride home as they relived their oaring. We left the blame game to them after offering a hand, he dripping wet, she worried about her lost flip-flop, glad it wasn’t us rising out of the lake.
Dragonflies flitted and bees buzzed around the Autumn Joy Sedum. Can you find the dragonfly? No butterflies, except for the cabbage moths. No butterflies on a late summer day in a park that was about to hold a butterfly festival. I’m hoping it was just this odd summer weather we had. I’m hoping.
A little worse for the wear, we headed for the car, and drove off in search of a plush horse.
We found it!
An ice cream parlor of fame in Palos Park, it was but a few miles from Lake Katherine. For the past several years, Tom has been wanting to find The Plush Horse. Now, we have, and it will take real will power to stay away from this enchanting ice cream parlor.
We each ordered one scoop in a cup, which was good, for a very big scoop it was, and headed outside to a lovely alcove that was perfect for sitting and licking one’s lips over a dish of ice cream. I had one of my summertime favorites, moose tracks, and Tom had black walnut. We ate contentedly while sitting on one of these Adirondack chairs, checking out the bird houses and wind chimes, and enjoying being out in the near perfect day.
We’ll be back. Yep. We’ll be back. Where to you dip your ice cream cone?
. . . at the Arbor House Bar. Look who stopped by early last night for a drink.
Tuesday was one of those pristine days in early September that brings about a longing for Autumn’s glory. Days of sunshine and changing colors, nights clear and crisp with the songs of crickets and tree frogs. It was an especially welcomed day after the oppressive heat and humidity of last week. Tuesday dawned early and clear – and then the clamor of large vehicles, chain saws, and workmen cut into the air and we watched the chaos that followed, changing, forever, our landscape.
When we moved here, two lots of considerable size, especially for a neighborhood so close to major expressways, industry, and one the country’s largest population, were vacant. Both were well wooded, if overgrown with weeds, and a haven to fox and woodchuck, deer, raccoons and a bevy of birds. Houses once stood on these lots, sold in the craze of the housing market in the 1990′s for the value of the land upon which they sat, then left to sit vacant.
These two lots were not ours, but, we grew accustomed to their woodsy ambiance and the feel of being out in the country that they afforded us.
As the years passed, the lots eventually sold and plans were made for homes to be built. The first one to arise out of the soil became a very nice house with a large, well-sodded lawn, fountains and a neatness not common here on the Cutoff. It came with a price, however; a price far greater than the cost of the land. The owners and their contractor clear-cut the entire property! Dozens of mature trees were sacrificed, including several maples and walnuts and sycamores. Trees that stood for a century were felled in an afternoon. The new owners, liking the peaceful, woodsy feel of the Cutoff, then proceeded to plant dozens of trees; trees that will reach maturity long after the owners are pushing up daisies. As the saying is oft-repeated these days, go figure.
Rumor had it that another house was soon to be erected on the lot adjoining ours. How we wished we could have purchased the land, but, that was not in the realm of possibilities. We could only hope that the same kind of carnage would not be repeated.
Last week, trucks pulled in, heavy equipment was hauled out and a path was mowed to destruction.
On Tuesday, chaos reigned as tree after tree was felled and we could imagine the confusion of nests toppling, burrows crumbling, and all that comes about when men make way for progress.
The good news, thus far, is that the new homeowners want to keep as many of the trees in back of the proposed abode as possible and they have attempted to leave some larger ones along the shared property line. We hope this happens, not only for the beauty of the trees, but for the buffer they provide from the noise of surrounding expressways.
Our property line is now more open, bringing in more sunlight, which is good, and less privacy, which is not. It is what it is and we will adjust, but, first, we need to mourn the loss of the trees for a bit, and hope that other trees will remain as this continues.
We wandered about, after the carnage stopped, trying to keep things in perspective. We came upon the arbor, our place of respite, where the sweet Autumn clematis now wanders in riotous bloom. Through the arbor, in our newly planted grassy knoll/prairie grass/habitat, were a doe and her fawn, drinking out of the make-shift bird bath recently installed. She watched us, beating her rear hoof in warning, while she kept on drinking. her eyes on us, her fawn at her heels. It was a natural reminder, it seemed, for us to “make do”, to carry on, in spite of the chaos. If you click on the pictures, you have a better view of how high the workers are and how tall some of these trees are, er, were, as well as the thirsty deer.
Posted in Nature/animals, tagged American Primitive, August, bears eating berries, blackberries, blueberry muffins, Mary Oliver, poetry about bears and blackberries on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 | 22 Comments »
. . . one more poem from Mary Oliver, before we bid August adieu.
When the blackberries hang
swollen in the wood, in the brambles
nobody owns, I spend
all day among the high branches, reaching
my ripped arms, thinking
of nothing, cramming
the black honey of summer
into my mouth; all day my body
accepts what it is. In the dark
creeks that run by there is
this thick paw of my life darting among
the black bells, the leaves; there is
this happy tongue.
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