The evening walk will soon disappear, and my routine will have to change completely. Sunset is at 6:58 tonight. It seems to come more quickly each day. I notice that earlier as I walked through a hot meadow thick with goldenrod and wild grasses, the bug drone was at full tilt. They were making such a buzz, as the sun was hot during that warm hour of two o’clock. In the evening, it’s much quieter, they are tired and the night cools down quickly.
The mosquitoes are still ferocious. I checked on a stream nearby, and it is still incredibly full. It’s recognizable again though–I can see the familiar rocks I know so well. What does a rainy season do for the fall leaves? At the moment, it is creating a fungus that damages the leaves with spots. Whether or not we will have a brilliant fall leaf display is still up in the air. I don’t have high hopes, to be honest.
The bugs haven’t gone. I passed a woman during the day who was visibly upset about this. “It’s horrible,” she said, her face crumpled up in pain. I completely understood! These autumn days are so special and we get so few, it seems unfair that it’s marred by the mosquitoes. But still they will die soon, and I can hear it in the evening as I walk and listen: the crickets are getting slower, quieter, the rasping, chirring, and buzzing is slowly dying down as the days get shorter and the nights get longer. No wind today, a static feel. White snakeroot is all a-bloom, little starry pom poms in a sea of green, like a sea of cotton tufts. Tomorrow is the equinox, a full moon just passed, big things happening on the planet.
Equinox. Still warm, still buggy, but less so on both points. Tonight I run out as soon as I’m finished with dinner, to make sure I get a long quiet walk in. Autumn olive bushes are laden with red and some orange fruit–I wonder about the orange. Everything seems to be affected by the dry then wet summer we had. Fruit is abundant, but it drops early. This odd explosion of mosquitoes. Tonight I make a point of walking in a place with wide open trails. It is breezy, and there aren’t any vernal pools or streams. I hope for less bugs with this choice and for the most part, it seems okay. I still use my hat to swat away the inevitable clouds.
There is a deep calm I feel as I walk through the preserve, the sun is slanting low and the cloud formations are mesmerizing. I had a busy day, so this is a balm for all the talking and working. As I head down the final hill, the sun is at my back and my shadow is long down the path. Around a bend I feel something new, something very welcome– a cool slip of a breeze grabbing on to my elbow like an old friend, and then it’s gone. It hasn’t been chilly except in the mornings, so this chilly breath felt exhilarating. Then I see a deer who bounds away as soon as it sees me. I havent seen a deer on my walks in a very long time. There’ve been notices about the epizootic hemorrhagic disease going around. I wonder how the deer will fair this year.
This first full day of autumn is cool, but that wisp of briskness hasn’t returned. The stiltgrass is going to seed, long and silvery, it bends over with its own weight. I know people try to pull it, eradicate it, but I really appreciate its beauty. Is fighting this change futile? I’ve gotten used to using my hat as a fan, and it really works to keep the bugs away. I was thinking about busyness as I walked today–how everyone seems even more busy these days, and yet seems to get half as much done. It feels like no one liked being still, because we are all frantic now. I enjoy the quiet, the leaves falling, floating on the path beneath me, the smell of impending rain in the air.
It’s here, it’s here! This is what I want to be singing out as I walk today. A loud raging storm passed through last night and took summer with it. The air is crisp and cool like that hand on my elbow the other day, but now it’s here fully, winding around my arms and keeping everything cool. The path is dark and damp and the dappled sunlight and fallen leaves stand out against it. The sky is a brilliant cloudless blue. Water flows everywhere making sounds we don’t normally hear in autumn. I have to step over rocks at the beaver dam because it has been breeched and the stream that isn’t ever running is now gushing and forming eddies and tiny waterfalls. I look out on the pond, which glows a brilliant blue and see that the rain has pushed the yellowing water lily pads even closer to the shoreline. A few mosquitoes linger, but truly fall has come.
Another pristine early fall day–the ground is damp and cool, the air is drying out. The humidity is low, and leaves fall along the path as I go. I am casually keeping an eye out for maitake (or grifola frondosa or hen of the woods). I have a theory that they don’t like to grow in the deep woods, but instead seem to be near the edges humans create. There are many oaks in these woods and the emerald green moss is dotted with brown acorns, no longer yellowing. Some of them have a tail out already, which is strange, looking to find soil to extend a root to. On the dirt big tooth aspen leaves stand out, and I listen: indeed, the crickets and other chirping insects I can’t identify are slowly fading. One will creak and croak, and then stop. Another will take up its buzzing but peter out, falteringly. I suddenly have this big image of it all as this play, and all the characters are slowly exiting. This vast Shakespearean drama has unfolded, and now the players are exiting stage left, one by one. I say the words in my head: exeunt, exeunt!
Truly a chill in the air. You feel it on your shoulder blades, it sits there comfortably. Coolness can feel so incredibly delicious after the summer. Just like how warmth feels so nice after winter. And you can stand still for a moment and maybe a mosquito or two will come by in a moment. Up ahead I see a familiar profile on an oak trunk about four feet up–a beautiful fresh chicken of the woods, laetiporus sulphureus. So juicy and soft, so orange and yellow! Chicken of the woods causes heart rot in trees. I wonder how long this tree will last. Not a few feet away is another oak that had fallen over and inside is a pile of brown rot. Still, I am elated to find this beautiful specimen. It’s gorgeous.
The end of the week is here, and I head back as the sun slants low. The crickets that fill the thick hedges of mugwort lining the trail trill slower and slower. One sounds like a car running out of gas. And soon it is quiet.
Notes: Thanks for reading about this week’s micro season! Have any thoughts about this week? Did I get something wrong? Or something right? Are you seeing something interesting? Always feel free to write me at: julia.c.sforza at gmail dot com. Have a great week!