Days Grow Short

September 27, 2021

A cool wind blows, warm strands twined throughout. The woods are dark, a greenish glow pulses despite the dimness. I think about walking today, and how each step is necessary to make a walk. I sometimes balk at the sameness of the walk, wanting to go elsewhere, but time constraints force me in certain ways. Once I am on the trail, it doesn’t matter it’s not new. It’s about the steps, one after the other. And then I notice a resinous polypore, small bulbous nubs that climb up the northern side of an old black birch. I see the fingerprints I left in one a few days ago, when they were even softer and newer, and I couldn’t resist touching them again, my fingertips sinking in the foam-like substance. I see the hemlock needles scattered over the deep brown dirt, everywhere, millions of them that I don’t even see. I keep on walking, step after step, never going anywhere new, but something new always meets me. 

September 28, 2021

Rain all day followed by a cleared blue sky and incredible clouds. The blue is so delicate, so fragile after the surly gray afternoon. I walk down by the river, through a sea of spice bushes that I haven’t visited in a while. Above me, the tall tulip trees, oaks and birches are yellowing and thinning, high above, with blue sky peeking out through their sparse tree tops. Below, the spice bushes cluster, still very green and berries ripe red; I crush one to smell their spicy scent. I find bits of a hen of the woods that someone must have cleaned it on the trail–but I don’t find one. Fungi abounds in the damp woods though.

I love how the rain makes the woods so dark and rich, and the smell as well–deep and musty, then notes of cucumber and fruitiness. I pass a fish head–detritus from an eagle? When I am taking photos of the stunning river, blue and pink from the clouds, an eagle soars over my head and out towards the river. The river is open and wide, and the water chestunust are finally dying so you can really appreciate how much water there is. When they cover it with their thick green carpet of pads, it looks like the land just keeps on going. But it’s really river. 

September 29,2021

It’s so pleasurably cool out–my skin feels it, cheeks and neck are chilled, and after a while I realize it’s too chilled, so I let my hair down. Still my cheeks and the underside of my chin are chilly, but in the very nicest way. I have lots to think about today as I walk.There is nothing like a walk to detangle the confusions of the world. I write about what I see on my walk, but it’s just as much about the walk itself, the step after step, as it is the woods. It’s the whole mix–me, the walking, the woods. 

I stop to check in on various mushrooms, watching their life cycle pass before my eyes, I notice some more black acorns, I hear a woodpecker that must be knocking on a particularly resonant hollow tree trunk, and I come upon my first hen of the woods of this year. Three pretty little brown clusters sitting around the base of a gnarled and huge old oak. These are small “hens,” and they look on the older side despite being smallish. I feel accomplished just seeing them.

September 30, 2021

My routine is changing with the season, so I walk midday to a place I haven’t been to in a while. No one is there, and I dawdle on the trails noticing all the fungi that I’ve missed. I don’t mind missing them–my obsession with them is still there but not as pressured, not as heated, hurried. There are still yellow coral mushrooms around– big sturdy clusters pushing out of the ground. I check the stream water levels, all very high for this time of year. Spring levels. Acorns are scattered thickly over the trail, many with a tiny tail of beginning growth. I believe these little sprouts will all die with the cold. Is this another aspect of the wetter climate we are expecting with climate change? Such a small detail, but what if the oaks disappeared? It’s a heartbreaking thought. I notice more and more maples with these fungal rots. What if maples disappeared? 

Despite all these anxious thoughts, I am still calmed by the walk and the trees, the goldenrod and asters bowing over the trail, the moss brilliantly green and soft to walk on. All these sensory pleasures.

October 1, 2021

Sometimes you are walking along and a perfectly regular scene suddenly comes alive. It depends on your perspective, the time of day, the slant of the light, the time of year, but these moments come into focus like how when you are at the eye doctor and they are sliding the glasses back and forth to check your vision and suddenly it all comes into crystal clear focus. It happens a lot, I think, these small moments when I pull my breath in, like a small shock at how beautiful it all is.

Tonight was a view as the sun started to set, every day it gets darker quicker. I was looking out towards the pond, a mix of deciduous trees in the foreground, dark and shadowed: musclewood, bitternut, oak, maple, black birch. The ground littered with yellow-beige leaves. Scraggly stilt grass created a soft green glow under the leaves, hovering around the tree trunks. In the distance, through the dim woods, the opening of the pond still glowed with light, the red leaves of the blueberry bushes that edge the pond brightly lit. There was some kind of energy flowing in that little spot, and I tried to take a picture, but that kind of magic doesn’t transfer well. So I just left it alone.

October 2, 2021

Sunset is just about 6:30 now, and I’m realizing how much I am going to miss evening walks. They are my quietest part of the day. I love stepping into the hush of it, the space I’ve carved just for me. I rarely miss it, but when I do I feel lost somehow. Tonight, the skies were full of mackerel clouds, wisps and tails, against the cool blue slowly getting darker. The insects are a quiet background chirruping, chipmunks squeak impatiently from the dead tree trunks in the brush, and birds flutter in the thickets, a thrumming sound here and there. 

The breeze is cool and warm, filled with smells: like fresh bread baking, like a sweet fruitiness that I wanted to keep smelling, like musty leaves. Then the cool breeze brings in that cold crisp smell, and sometimes a bit of smoke. I am glad summer has ended, but not entirely ready for winter. I’d like the fall to stay just a bit longer, and of course it will, but it’s always too quick, and I’m already mourning it. 

October 3, 2021

6 p.m. and it’s dark already due to low gray clouds. I walk around the pond this evening, noting the extremely evident changes. The sugar maples are already dropping yellowing leaves, and all of them are changed to a degree due to fungal spots that developed because of the rains. They are all spotted and sad looking. The swamp dogwood that surrounds the pond is turning a mellow reddish yellow. None of it’s particularly beautiful, just waning, slowly fading. The brightest thing around is the winterberry that is on the orange side of red this year, loaded with berries. That and the flowering dogwood berries that form star-like clusters of shiny scarlet berries. The box elder is yellowing, and there are hazelnuts on the bushes this year, but I’ll have to fight the grape vines to get to them. It’s still and humid out; we’ve been waiting for the rain all day now. The last of the mosquitoes hover if you linger. I look behind me as I walk back up the hill to the house, and it’s all muted colors, fall is in swing. We are just waiting for some cold snaps now…

Notes:

Thanks for reading about this week’s micro season! There are so many changes right now, every day there’s something new, but the way the days get shorter and shorter feels especially poignant. You may have noticed that I’ve decided to leave hyperlinks out in these weekly journals. It seemed distracting, and who needs more windows open? Also, to be very honest, it’s more work for me. If you ever have any questions, you can always write to me at: julia.c.sforza at gmail dot com. Have a great week!