The other day my 2-year-old nephew and I went for a walk. Such a walk with a little companion is always bound to be wondrous, and this one was delightfully so. We walked back and forth repeatedly over a patch of grass under the poplar tree, laughing happily as brown and yellow leaves crunched under our bare feet. We were listening to the sound of Fall. My walk here today was full of that sound, and the rustling, crackling, crunching rhythm as I trudge through leaf-covered cow paths is pleasantly companionable and familiar. The trees, too, are rustling, the drying leaves whispering to each other just before they fall. A friend once told me that there is an old word for books in a native American language that translates to "talking trees," a name derived from the sound of turning pages and this autumnal sound of wind in the leaves.
"And all at once, summer collapsed into fall."
- Oscar Wilde
Here at my thoughtful spot, the waterfall drowns out most sounds, certainly the gentle sound of rustling leaves, but not all. A woodpecker is keeping up a happy knocking on a tree across the creek from me, too far away and high up for me to tell what kind, but he's small and I see a little splash of read, so I'm guessing he's a downy. He's hopping in circles back and forth and up and down the trunk, high above me in the yellow leaves where the sunlight hits, he must be quite a happy little fellow.
"Delicious Autumn! ...if I were a bird, I would fly about
the earth seeking successive autumns."
- George Eliot
A breeze must have blown through those treetops just now, for a marvelous dancing flurry of leaves has just fallen. They look like golden snowflakes falling so slowly, as if trying to defy gravity and enjoy their flight for as long as possible. Though I'm in deep shade here as I write, I have only to look up and the sunlight is all dappled golden above me. That canopy that was such vivid green only a month ago, is now saturated with the warmest light, the tree trunks are creamy white in the sunshine, and the leaves are every imaginable shade of yellow. Isn't it lovely that as the weather cools the colors warm?
"How wonderful yellow is. It stands for the sun."
- Vincent Van Gogh
Between the moss and fallen leaves on the forest floor around me, dozens of miniature wonders have sprung up. Patches of delicate, pale pink Lady's Thumb are every where, its new shoots in the spring are edible, and songbirds love the seeds in the autumn. The tiniest toadstools grow in little clusters, they seem very fitting in this setting that is full of the scent of decomposing leaves and rich, damp earth warmed by a companionable and gentle sunshine. Though perhaps they would look more at home in the mists of these early autumn mornings, rather than the warmth of late afternoon. I remember learning once that Beatrix Potter, though best known for her beloved watercolors of rabbits in jackets, was a mycologist, and loved to paint fungi. She would have been very happy in this little thoughtful spot, I think, with such a plethora of interesting subjects to paint. One day I hope to distinguish with confidence between the poisonous and nutritious varieties of of these odd little plants, but for now I believe I shall content myself with attempting to sketch them in their native habitat, rather than bringing them home for dinner!
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