• Sophia

Early Autumn Pleasures

One wishes only to go forward, deeper into the summer land, journeying from lark-song to lark-song, passing through the dark realm of the owls, the fox-holdings, the badger-shires, out into the brilliant winter dominion, the sea-bleak world of the hawks. Something lingers in the air above the east country, a dust that never settles, a mist that no illumination can disperse. It is like the sea shining down from the sky.

J.A. Baker, The Hill of Summer

September is a sweep of dusky, purple asters, a sumac branch swinging a fringe of scarlet leaves, and the bittersweet scent of wild grapes when I walk down the lane to the mailbox. September is a golden month of mellow sunlight and still, clear days. The ground grows cool to touch, but the sun is still warm.

Jean Hersey, The Shape of a Year

The shift has started. The mornings are cool now, mist dancing over the lake until the sun climbs high enough to convince the ghosts to give themselves up for another day. The loons still sing their lovely laments, but their cries seem to carry extra longing. Rare now are the quick, high notes of summer. Soon it will be time to leave. It’s been days since I heard a goose honk. Two weeks since the last hummingbird stopped for a sip at the petunias.

On my walks I take note of the leaves, new bursts of yellow appearing every day. Sometimes just one will let go and flutter to the ground. Sometimes a group of them will take the leap together, scattering to the four corners. Their language changes rapidly now. It seemed only yesterday they were sprightly new buds, delighted to be attending their first photosynthesis dances. Now more and more of them chatter like old crones, sharing last snatches of gossip, saying goodbye to friends. I sense no regret among their ranks, just plenty of good humour and an unrelenting curiosity. What an adventure it's been.

The last of the bees are still busy, but slowing down. Today I saw a fat bee paused on one of the remaining purple clovers. I don’t know if it was sleeping or if it had died there, tongue forever lolling in sweet nectar. Not a bad way to go. I think Rumi would approve.

The few saskatoon berries that are left on the bushes are deflated lumps. I think back to the height of their bounty, when I saw the black bear sitting on its butt in front of a resplendent buffet, paws and jaws busily engaged in the act of summer plumping. The mama bear and cub I spotted more recently proved to me what a rain-rich success this year has been for forest dwellers. Mama’s dark fur glistening, baby scrambling up a tree like a claw-handed cherub. The deer, too, are well fed and muscled.

Meanwhile, the rose hips are coming into their own. Oh, they’re glorious. My herb book says I must wait until the first frost before I harvest, at which point I’ll gather up several buckets for the dehydrator. When the snow is falling as if it will never stop, I’ll pour boiling water over their wrinkled hearts and sip myself to health.

The farmer’s almanac says this winter will be hard. We brace, getting in the harvest, pickling this and stewing that, drying herbs and freezing huge florets of cauliflower for future soups. A few more weeks of steady garden work and then it’s onto firewood gathering and chicken butchering. Then we can light the fires and cozy up for Winter.

I’m a Beltane baby, but I’ve always enjoyed the autumn best, this slow slide into the dark season. The human world has gone so mad, and I’m craving hibernation. I look up sewing patterns and graze through book after book of Folk Tales, Wonder Tales, Fairy Tales. My mind is full of golden apples, firebirds, women who marry bears. Who knows in what shape I’ll emerge come next spring. I’m still sad a lot, but even on my worst days, when my grief is bigger than my gratitude and it all feels too heavy, I Keep The Spark, just like Charles would want me to.

It’s feasting time. I hope you’re feasting with someone special, or hosting a grand meal for one over a glass of red. May I recommend freshly harvested yellow-fleshed potatoes with lashings of butter and a sprinkling of fresh dill. A feast all by itself. Remember to raise a toast to the more-than-human world. The trees, the animals, the Water. We’ve all got a Winter to get through.


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