Witch Hazel Blooms

October 18, 2021

Delightfully cold out, though we went from summer to winter. The wind is brisk today, and dark heavy looking clouds linger and pass. On a 6 pm. walk, the sky has opened for a bit, and it’s pale blue. The shadowy trees nearly denuded of leaves stand out against the pale sky. Peachy pink glow shines on the cloud’s undersides, and off in the distance two crows chase each other above the ridge top far away, as the sun goes down. An aspen’s last leaves quiver in the wind with the pink behind them. I drag my feet along the sides of the road where pine needles have gathered and push them off to the side, feeling eight years old with a knit cap and an oversized jacket on. Today I didn’t have much time for walking, and I guess it’s not surprising, but the less walking you get the more you appreciate every step.

October 19, 2021

Evening walks are now down the block, and soon they will be around the backyard, and then they will be no more. It gets way too dark, but the idea of walking in the dark does appeal to me, just not down the road or in the deep woods. There’s a smell of winter in the cooling night air, the sky is a pale glacier blue, the smell of wood smoke is in the air, and walnut stains blot the roadway. I scuff through the pine needle duff that builds on the sides of the road. A dog barks. I hear a noise and see someone pulling an air conditioning unit out of the window. Someone is playing electric guitar in a trailer that’s behind their house. Kids chase a dog. I look up at a few old walnut trees and focus on the blades of their leaves floating down, yellow slips falling into the road.

October 20, 2021

Bright and sunny blue-skied fall day. On the warm side but cool undercurrent. The woods are still shady, the light feels different. I am out in a short sleeved shirt, and my upper arms feel cool and slightly chilled. There’s a nice breeze that smells new and clean–not sure how else to describe it. The wild blueberry leaves are bright red. The woods are starting to feel spacious. I miss this spot already–if we get any kind of snow the road stays closed. A small ribbon snake slithers through the fern stems. I can hear it first, and I bend down to see into where it has hidden. I can only see just a bend of its body. The breeze is cool, the sun is warm. There’s probably few better feelings in this world.

October 21, 2021

A golden day–blue sky, a few clouds for interest, 70 degrees in the sun, 64 in the shade. Light is flooding down through the leaves, and all the golden brown black birch leaves are dappling the ground. The light gets brighter in the woods as the leaves fall. A breeze is bracing, but I’m still wearing short sleeves. The plethora of mushrooms now all seem gone. Chipmunks still chip and scramble in the ferns’ stems, their hiding spots getting fewer. There are always all the tree trunks and dead trees, but their radius is still shortened. Watching leaves fall swaying to the ground, and fern branches flapping in the wind, I feel suddenly rich. When I am here, certainly this is all I need. Of course, this is one of the most gorgeous days in the year. 

The leaves are confusing me–so many trees are bare, yet still so many trees are fully green. It’s very strange. My unscientific mind sees mainly sugar maples with no leaves. I ask people when I’m on the trails what they think of it, some people see it and some people don’t notice at all. Some people say the peak is past and some people say it’s not even there yet. They are both right. 

October 22, 2021

I get out early today because clouds are coming. Next week the weather forecast is all rain, the whole week. I wonder if it’s my last chance to see the leaves, which aren’t really doing much to be honest. I have a cold (not Covid, though simple colds are different now) so I wonder if I should go–but the temperature is warm, the sun is out, and the pressure of missing the changing of the leaves is strong. I know I won’t get this chance again for another year! 

I drive a bit to get to the bigger mountains. The trail is covered with pine needles, soft and bouncy. Spicebush lines the trail, already turned burgundy. Blueberry bushes a deeper scarlet. All of the colors are not as bright; they are certainly off, but when I get to a good viewpoint it’s still stunning. Flames of red peek out from a good portion of green. Some yellows and browns. On the trail, tawny chestnut oak leaves look like serrated daggers. The black gum tree is a stunner as always–no change there. I’ve read they have the longest tap root of any tree.  I notice just as I head down the mountain that the witch hazel is blooming its yellow starry blooms. Such a subtle flower, you wouldn’t know it was there unless you looked. But stunning once you see it.

October 23, 3021

I am lucky to live in a place where people made all the old abandoned railroad into trails where other people can walk or bike. Today, the clouds look menacing and though a few drops fall, it’s still a nice fall day. Cool though–it was under 50 this morning and didn’t seem to warm up much. Right now I feel as if it’s necessary to get out every minute I can before the impending winter. The rail trails often form a perspective hole (is that a thing?) where it feels like you are walking in a tunnel to nowhere.

Walnut deposits sporadically appear on the trail, the green balls always surprise me with what large fruit they are. The green outer shells are crumbled everywhere, and black inner nut shells roll around in the detritus. Such a messy tree! I see downed elms along the trailside; they will soon be overtaken by the walnuts. Knotweed, on the other hand, thickly grows on either side, forming thickets of dead growth from last year and green new growth. There’s not a lot to look at on these trails, as nice as they are. They’re better for biking, as they are flat and straight. Still, I am thankful that they exist. 

October 24, 2021

I am low energy today, and the dense low fog seems to punctuate my mood. The fog rolls on the pond, moving so quickly that I stop to watch it, transfixed. Where is it going? It’s strange to see so much movement where you don’t usually see it. This fog is not just sitting on the pond, it’s moving in a current. Meanwhile, the pond doesn’t seem to have a current. It’s a different perspective to have on air which we take for granted and never think about.

It is cold out this morning–below 40 degrees! The trail is damp and covered with wet leaves. There is a hint of blue sky above me. The trees look so mysterious in all of this fog and mist. I feel at home in it, feeling depressed. Would a sunny clear sky make me feel better? I get to some waterfalls which gush out into a clear pool. Fog lingers with water spray over the inky pool.  The soft shadowy lines are soothing.

Notes: I just barely got this one in! This week has felt long, as if the residual exhaustion of the past two years is somehow being released by my body. Any one else feel these pockets of weirdness bubbling out? I hope not, for your sake! I’m glad it’s fall, and I’m looking forward to the introspection winter brings. Feel free to write me: julia.c.sforza at gmail dot com.