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I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fall Fling

Wordsworth at 28 (when he seems to have felt very old, having no idea that he would live to be 80) pulled himself out of an emotional crisis with the thought that "nature never did betray the heart that loved her."  Considering some of the things that nature does (fading sight and hearing, the inconvenient effects of gravity, among others), it's hard not to find friend William a tad naive (as he noted a few years later when his favorite brother drowned in a storm).  But today was a day of unexpected grace and beauty.

Given the dryness of most of the summer, I've not been expecting much in the way of fall color.  (And yes, in our part of the world, we have recently had so many rainy days that some some of us were starting to forget what sun looks like, but rain the first week of October doesn't make up for months of drought.) Some of the trees in our neighborhood have been turning plain old brown, skipping everything that usually separates green leaves from brown ones. After driving across Ohio this morning, I am pleased to report that many of the states' trees are managing to put on their usual autumn show.

It started with a little yellow along I-77, then some red--sumac, maybe?  Skirting the edge of Amish country on Route 250, my hopes began to rise as a dogwood or two displayed their usual glorious burgundy.  By the time I was headed west on US 30, fall was in full fling.  The skies opened out as I left the hill country, pure blue, and there were the trees--maples, sassafrass, and something in clear, singing yellow.  (I don't identify leaves well at 65 miles an hour.)  Few things are more beautiful than a blue sky reflected in the clear blue of a farm pond, but one of them is the doubled sight of sugar maples strutting their stuff in this, their show-off season.  Perhaps this is the kind of sight that led Wordsworth to describe his "cheerful faith, that all that we behold is full of blessings."

Yes, indeed.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A long journey

I have to confess that fall always makes me a little sad, even though I love the crisp air and the satisfying crunch of walking through fallen leaves.  So much is ending, and at this stage of my life, there seem to be more endings than beginnings.  Over the last few weeks, news of deaths and advancing illness have made this fall, still in its beginning phase, seem even more intense than usual.

My usual habit of turning to the outside world for solace has brought yet more meditation on endings.  This was a good year for butterflies, but the brevity of their lives has contributed to my autumn melancholy.  They add so much beauty to the world, but few of them live more than a few weeks.

One exception is the year's last generation of monarchs, which fly south to Mexico to overwinter, then start north in February or March, lay their eggs in the southern U.S., and die, leaving that next generation to complete the migration to our West Virginia hills and fields.  Knowing that the caterpillars busily defoliating our backyard milkweeds a few weeks ago were the last generation of 2010 led me to commemorate them.

The defoliated plant that led to the discovery

of the VERY hungry caterpillar
 caught in the act of chewing.

The last generation, who got to fly away.