Friday, October 5, 2012
Sweet Autumn This morning I sat on the kitchen porch and stared at the trees. It was a perfect day - cloudless, sun shining, a slight breeze. A small airplane grumbled by overhead, followed by a jet lumbering in to land at SeaTac or Boeing Field. The song birds were chirping incessantly over in the blackberries, and a couple of blue jays were wrack-wracking at each other up the hill in what I think of as TK’s bird sanctuary. TK is our neighbor. He and his wife Marcy have turned the lot uphill from us into a spiritual garden that teems with birds, and hopeful cats. Occasionally a little yellow alder leaf broke loose from the trees and came tumbling and twirling down into the yard. Why does autumn feel like such a sweet season? It is, after all, the time when nature begins to put life to bed, resting so that it can break forth in glorious springtime profusion six months from now. This respite from growth comes just in time. I notice the morning glory has crawled up the fence and leapt up to grab hold of the lowest hanging fuchsia tendril. Dang. There’s a connection I’d better break before they get too entwined. So what is it about autumn? The sun is shining more from the south every day, in a golden slanting light that makes the color of everything more intense. The work that calls to me from the yard is slowing down, a little. I’m already deep in plans for how I’m going to re-arrange and expand the flower beds over the winter. I am contemplating the next steps in the ethnic cleansing of my yard, a cleansing which has as its object the removal of buttercups, stinking Robert, morning glory, and blackberries. I know I won’t obliterate them, but I can thin them out and push them back enough that they don’t smother the plants I do want to thrive. This program of weed control would be easier to implement if I didn’t enjoy the lacy leaves and pink blossoms of Stinking Robert, the cheerful yellow buttercup blossoms, the pale beauty of the morning glory flowers, and of course, blackberry pie. Soft-heartedness is a besetting sin for a gardener. With plants you have to set and keep firm boundaries, literally. Weeds are like house guests who move in and never leave, eating your food, dirtying the dishes and never washing up, grabbing the newspaper before you’ve had a chance to read it in the morning and leaving the sections scattered around the house inside-out and folded all which-ways. That’s a weed of a houseguest, and that is the presumptuous behavior of a weed in the garden. They suck up the hospitality you’ve provided for the plants you invited. I wonder if this winter will be warm enough that some of the annuals winter over, or if we’ll get an Arctic Blast that freezes the ground and turns the less hardy plants into something that looks like boiled spinach. The up side of such a freeze is that it knocks back the slug population. Yay. The apple tree is covered with fruit this year. I wonder if it heard me thinking I might cut it down and is striving to look busy. Soon Rick and I will have the enjoyment of watching squirrels running up the tree and picking apples, taking a few crunchy bites, and then chomping into the apple and carrying it down the trunk and staggering across the yard, carrying it to where ever they stash their apples in the woods. These are not large apples, and they don’t taste good to me, so I don’t begrudge the squirrels their fruit, and it is so much fun to watch them. I really have been thinking of taking that tree down because the fruit is not tasty, but, as Rick says, then we couldn’t watch the squirrels. It still feels like summer in some ways, but I can’t kid myself. Time to start making plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas. You get into your 60s and it seems like you hardly have time to inhale in between winter holidays, the time is ripping by so quickly. For now it is enough to stay in the moment, in the gentle sunny autumn days, listening to the birds chirping and carping at each other – don’t those birds ever shut up? – and thinking how much I like autumn, and I don’t know why. There’s something sweet about autumn.