I spend a part of each day outside, regardless of the weather. Some days longer than others, but every day, at least for a little while, I’m out there. Usually I begin my day about the time the sun is just peaking over Shenandoah mountain on the northeastern border of our land. I take two of the dogs (the older, bigger dogs) and we either climb the ridge behind the house or go down to the fields where we have paths to follow, always heading toward the sunrise. We walk for half-an-hour or more, exploring the daily changes in the land, the trees, the grasses, looking for signs of visits from the deer, the bears, foxes and smaller animals. As the seasons change, so do the signs. On cold winter mornings we’ll sometimes seek out a place protected from the wind and just stand, letting the rising sun warm us before completing the path we have chosen.
Later in the morning, I spend some time outside just stretching and preparing myself for a morning’s writing. In the afternoons, unless the weather is too bad, I will find something to do outside: getting wood for the winter heating season, cleaning leaves from the gutters, cutting what little grass we allow around the house or on the paths where we walk. Just now, in mid-October, I have become aware of the changes in the way the air smells.
Suddenly, long before I’m ready for it, the perfume of downed leaves, of mushrooms and toadstools, of damp earth is here. What happened, I wonder, to the heavy odor of boxwood around the deck? Where did the scent of lilacs and green grass, of hay and recently turned earth, go? Why, only yesterday, it seems, the air smelled of green growing things, of hot earth baked by the sun centered above us. Now the slanted light of Fall misses the earth it seems, but sharply outlines the falling leaves, instead. Oak and maple and walnut replace the signature of pine in the air.
I’m not ready for this! Not ready to have the smell of old wood burning in the furnace replace that of renewal and rebirth; certainly not ready to welcome the first snow (though in years past we had it long before now), yet I’m certain it will come and I will be prepared, if not ready for it.
"Stop!" I want to say. "Stop and just let me sniff the air and enjoy the fragrance of Fall," before that, too, escapes my senses. Then I remember Shelley: "If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"
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