Indian Summer


Almost overnight, the reeds have packed up and fled until next year, leaving behind only bare stalks and surprisingly resilient fluffy white seed heads that will hang around until the new growth.  Summer is officially over, even for those who have failed to pick up on the warning signs.  The nights are chill, the north winds are becoming harsh, and each ever colder rainstorm is a foretaste of the snows arriving soon.

People who live in this climate _ me among them _ generally welcome the onset of new seasons.  We claim it is the privilege of living here.  (Of course, those who live in different areas have different reasons for celebration _ the onset of the monsoons, for example.)  What we sometimes have trouble with is the length of some of them _ winter always outwaits its welcome, and sometimes spring even lingers a bit too long.  Nobody, however, is hoping that autumn will disappear any time in the near future.

Bittersweet is somewhat invasive, but picturesque most of the year and especially beautiful with bright orange berries in intricate forms as we anticipate the first frosts.  Joan used to have me gather a bunch of it to decorate the house around Thanksgiving, as her mom used to do, but these days the tradition has ended. Killed, like so many others, by affluence.

It is much easier to buy plastic leaves and wreaths and various light-up marvels to decorate than to walk the woods and possibly scratch your hands.  For months, stores have been offering faux-nostalgic wares remembering holidays of old.  And, perhaps, that is all to the good.  Leave these fine berries and anything else out in the open for the appreciation of others and the use of the ecology of which they are a part.
Wed –

Puppy cove, with about as much color as there will be along the waterfront.  After the cold front comes through in a few days, leaves will be various subtle shades of browns, not red nor yellow nor orange.  Then they will be stripped by gales from Connecticut.  Still, peak color for the local microclimate.

The rest of the area is magnificent.  Joan and I took a ride yesterday viewing foliage as fine as any in New Hampshire or upstate.  Long Island, for all its overpopulation, can be astonishing in how much beauty lies everywhere.  Everywhere just glows like some enchanted storybook watercolor illustration.

First of the obligatory Halloween cemetery shots.  These rusting steel gravestones in Huntington Historic Cemetery date from the Civil War Era.  The well-nourished trees on this hill provide some of the best colors in town, and from the top you can get views of what around here passes for expansive vistas of foliage in the distance.

I like being reminded periodically of mortality.  Especially when you are older, each day of life and health is a gift, and we forget that fact only at our peril.  I admit that even when younger, I would often stroll through such places, to keep a perspective on ambition and failure.  No matter what, everyone ends up in the same situation.

From the top of the hill with the old maple tree _ I’m not enough of an expert to tell if it is a sugar maple, but it seems brilliant enough.  The stones here go back to the early seventeen hundreds, although most that old are almost too weathered to read. 

For a while this ground was totally neglected, but lately the town has realized what a historic resource it is and there is a significant effort to clean it up.  There are even seasonal tours and I would not be surprised if some of them were at night around now.  The beer cans and periodic vandalism have finally stopped.  I think it is good for anyone’s psyche to always have a graveyard within walking distance _ kind of like the ancient Roman slave who kept whispering “remember you are only mortal” in the ears of a conqueror on parade.


Our own front yard shows as fine a pattern of autumn splendor as there is anywhere, the Japanese maples getting progressively more brilliant and clear red, while the hickories turn fully gold.  This weekend the rain and winds will rip through, and all the finery will lie darkening on the ground, waiting for me to get out and sweep them all up.  Some colors, some leaves will remain for quite a while, but from here on it’s all a ragged show, like a beggar wearing a once fine set of clothing.

Meanwhile, other beggars in all their current finery were ready to go out candy hunting.  Halloween has become another huge holiday like Super Bowl Sunday, almost from nowhere.  I think it is because nobody is being urged to contemplate “the real spirit of Halloween” as is constantly blathered at the more traditional ones.  That and the fact that those are both purely peer holidays _ no extended family to please, no ghosts from the past to be compared _ makes it an attractively meaningless festival.

Goldenrod completely gone to seed and fluffy seed carriers.  The far shore fully decorated with autumnal colors.  A fair amount of boats still remain in the water, their owners hopeful that there will be a number of good days ahead, but even they are thinning quickly, as the boatyards constantly haul them up for winterizing and storage. 

I tend to get too easily ahead of myself.  One snowflake does not a winter make.  A single cold blustery morning is not the onset of full harsh weather.  It’s always been a problem, this looking too far ahead, this worry about the future when the present is fully around.  Time to just take a deep breath, stand still for a while, and truly immerse myself in the moment.






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