Autumn in the Park

I love how the autumn light filters and dances through the red and gold leaves; a light, pixie-like breeze gently rustling them, sending a few floating lazily to the ground.

Standing still for a moment, taking in the smell, the light, the feel of that breeze lightly brushing my skin, I feel my shoulders relax and drop down a bit as I smile and breathe deeply.

The packed dirt and gravel path looks so inviting; it’s already claimed other nature loving souls this morning, who heeded the call to get out and be refreshed; joggers, walkers, meanderers; their faces reflecting the serenity that I’m desperate for today.

Preoccupied squirrels with fluffy brown tails are busy with their autumn tasks; digging, ruffling, burying their treasures. They make me happy. In an odd way, it is calming and peaceful to see them hard at work, yet seeming to revel in the autumn air and changing season as much as I am; their purposeful movements interspersed with dramatic bouts of scampering, scolding and tail waving.

The crunch of small rocks and dried leaves makes a pleasing sound as I walk the park. Haphazardly scattered along the pathway, among the rocks and sticks and other seasonal detritus, I am delighted to find bright red and orange leaves, which at first sight seem random, yet cause me to marvel at Mother Nature and the seemingly perfect placement of her handiwork. Lovely. A bright spot on the path, a reminder to be alert and observe, “there is beauty on your path but you must watch for it.”

What else might I be missing? I still my mind and watch and listen and smell; I observe with eyes that are looking for small joys and beauty; the things so ordinary that they are overlooked, yet are packed with meaning, novelty and beauty.

Laughter. I hear it. Toddlers so delighted with their game of hide and seek that they shriek out their joy and reveal their hiding spaces; feeling confident and protected as they run full speed through the grass, filling their young lungs with air and collapsing in a giggling heap with their gasping parents close behind. This. This is living. Exhausting oneself with pure happiness!

There is the man on the shady bench with his dog; a picture of contentment as he strokes the white head of his poodle and talks gently to it. His face is serene and his posture relaxed; the dog lying still observing us walkers, joggers and meanderers. Easy companionship.

I see the determined jogger, who runs past with heavy breathing and intense focus on her path, yet takes a moment to make eye contact, smile and chuff out a hello! Determined, yet aware.

From one vantage point at the far end of the path, I see the entire park open up in front of me. I feel joyful. I can’t help but smile wide at the deep green of the grassy area, where delighted dogs romp and chase far flung Frisbees, frisking around their guardians; where an older couple strolls hand in hand, taking in the park and all its beauty, totally unhurried; the huge mix of old trees that offer shade and respite for those enjoying the morning – pines, oaks and other varieties – the playground with excited children busy at play, imagining themselves invincible as they climb the slide ladder.

This morning walk in the park helped me shed a feeling of heaviness I did not realize I had been hauling around with me. I feel relaxed, open and so light; aware of just how much the ordinary is designed to bring joy, peace and a sense of centering, but we must have our senses ready to receive it. Our Creator knew just what He was up to, down to every slight detail; so intricate, yet so often overlooked, as we search out something huge and wild and shattering to bring back our peace and our sense of normalcy, when all we need is right in front of us, waiting to be seen with new eyes and fresh appreciation. Nature is calling, can you hear her?

Autumn

We lover’s of Autumn have a sixth sense about us; a knowing when that first revelation of summer’s end has arrived.

It is felt on the skin in that barely discernable nip and twinge of air, charged with the slightest of chills; awareness that the atmosphere has changed just a smidge.

Autumn’s scent is unique and mischievous. Earthy and deep; wise, pungent and bold in the way brown leaf tips, restless trees and fading flowers bend and drop to the Earth, daring the one watching to stop them; to impede the ancient progress of a slow, yet lovely descent into quiet and rest.

That spritely spurt of wind, which tosses and dances fallen leaves and finished flowers round and round, is delightful. What is it about piling up crispy, browned leaves and then dashing them about; flinging them from orderly piles into random and untamed flurries of color? A new beginning; a tossing and mixing up of the old, lazy routine into something new; a plan to disrupt the status quo and wait patiently through the Winter, as that plan takes on form and substance. Somehow the chaos of it is lovely and energizing; part of the ritual. It is one more wild streak before the settling and simmering of Autumn moves on to the mystery and silent brooding of Winter.

The discerning observer will witness Nature’s response to the shift from the indolent, dog days of summer to Autumn’s call to let go; the song of quiet purpose and intention, as Mother Earth whispers it’s time to fold in, cozy up and allow rest to perform its miracles and the deep, sweet slumber of Winter to wait in the wings.

There is something inspiring and invigorating in this call to purposeful letting go; an anticipation. Is it the definitive color changes and that unmatched fall scent in the air that feels like a new beginning? Is it the crisp sensation of fall air as one breathes it in?

Welcome Autumn! Come and show off your colors and dare us to think about the dead or dying places that we need to let fall; not with sadness or fear; but with an anticipation that a season of silent regrouping, where new life starts to bud,  will soon break free with the coming of Spring.  It’s coming and it will be glorious!

Morning at the duck pond

 

 

The sun hasn’t been up for long, yet the pond is fully awake.

On a large moss covered rock in one corner of the pond, the cormorant is sunning itself; fully spread wings welcome the warm sun.

Turtles occupy a majority of the warming rocks and gnarled old roots, jutting up from the still water; always watching, always aware; stout legs and webbed feet stretched out to soak in the warmth.

As I wander closer to the pond’s edge, sleepy ducks regard me with curiosity, but they aren’t afraid; others doze on, with heads tucked into cozy, feathery wings.

The proud Canadian geese continue nibbling grassy tidbits and bugs as I stroll on by; a few venture a hiss or two, just to make sure we are on the same page.

The pond is still and quiet; yet it’s not.

Human noises are blessedly absent, but morning greetings and conversations are vivid and noisy; the rhythm of the pond is in full swing!

Cheerful, grounding, natural.  Life lessons can be learned here; the Divine is all around.

Along the grassy edge of the pond, small fish and tadpoles congregate in the warm shallows, as a ray of sun brings heat and light. Life.

My shadow causes a frantic, mass exodus, as they dart in a mass of tiny tails and fins to safer waters; ripples and bubbles marking their escape.

A large, silent turtle, with only the tip of its snout visible, is waiting; slowly submerging in an effortless swim to its breakfast. The ebb and flow of life on the pond.

Along the edge of the pond there is evidence of nests and bedded down reeds; a few delicate egg shell pieces and tufts of feathers and down. Home for a family of ducks; their safe place; warm and tucked away.

Moving along, the insistent chirping of a red-winged blackbird, signals that I am bit too close for comfort to his family home in the tall, fully leafed tree in front of me.

I move gingerly around this part of the pond, as he begins to dive and swoop at me; making it clear that I’m a visitor here. Respect.

Rounding one side of the pond, a mama and her ducklings dart and swim through the glass smooth water; nibbling up tidbits as they happily cluck and chatter to each other. She steers them toward the middle of the pond. Cautious.

The ripples they leave behind swirl and eddy, then disappear as the still water swallows them up. Calm restored.

Random splishes and splashes can be heard, as turtles slip into the water like small submarines; tiny, pointy heads can be seen as they break the surface to keep a sharp eye on the pond bank; scouts that watch and wait.

The green Heron, master fisherman, is tucked up and underneath the mass of reeds, on a thin root poking up through the water. He patiently waits in stillness and silence. He knows food is just below the surface and silently waits for his opportunity.  Patience.

A ripply movement catches my eye and I carefully make my way to the edge of the pond, curiosity brimming. Is it the river otter come back again; fishing and dining on crawdads and little fish?

No, it is a large, orangey, iridescent fish; the tail poking up and rippling the water like a miniature shark’s fin, as it roots in the murky, muddy water under the gnarled old tree, with the beautiful leafy branches.

I am captivated.

I sink to my feet watching it go about its business; gracefully moving and swishing as it searches for a treasure hidden in the murky pond.  Trust.

A sudden cacophony of honking and quacking, breaks apart the loudly peaceful pond, as a goose announces its displeasure; wings and webbed feet flapping and dashing into the pond, causing a few moments of panic and unrest as others follow suit.

Quickly, all is calm and everyone goes about their business, as if nothing has happened. Ritual, rhythm, order restored. Life at the pond.

The bench that is tucked in under the beautiful tree, with weepy branches skimming the water, beckons to me.

Resting here in the shade, I try to blend in quietly, allowing nature to return to its busy activities, and the turtles to relax their ever vigilant and rigid watch.

There is always one who stalks, silently tracking my movements.

As my eyes roam over this place I love, I notice that the trees and flowering plants are always reaching up to the sky, their source of life; branches and tender shoots going up, up.

Even in seasons of autumn and winter, when skies are grey and the sun seems scarce, always their branches seek light and reach upward. They know Who sustains them.

Some of these trees are gnarled and funky, with twists and crimps, bends and burned out, broken up places, yet up; they always point up.

There is a lot to learn out here at the duck pond.

The simplicity of creation looking to the Creator to protect, provide and sustain, as the seasons and cycles of life move ever onward.

My life resembles these tenacious trees, with their broken branches and crooked spots and their seasons of beauty and abundance, fully leafed and lovely.

Seasons come and go, ebb and flow as the divine tapestry of our lives are woven by a Master weaver; intersecting pain and beauty; abundance and lack. Always with arms and face lifted up to the Source of Life.

Mountain Path

Meandering off into the distance, the mountain path looks inviting.

Relaxed and lazy; where does it lead? Who has walked here before?

How many stories this lonely path must hold; what are its mysteries?

Warm sun complements the cool mountain breeze; perfect weather to explore!

Curiosity piqued; I set out with rocks and leaves crunching underfoot.

The silence is alive with nature doing its thing.

Birds call out with their beautifully intricate songs; joyful and bright, full of energy.

Wildflowers dip and nod in the breeze; dancing to their own tune along the low, gentle hills.

Vibrant colors are splashed about in hues of blue, yellow, deep red-orange; a divine paintbrush at work.

Busy insects hover and flit; carrying out the business of nature.

Mountain silence is full of life, purpose and order; energizing, yet calming.

Walking along, I hear forest creatures rustling in bushes; peeking and darting to and fro.

Small animals busy, yet wary; alert, yet free in their mountain homes.

I wonder how many eyes are watching my progress along the path.

The air smells of warm earth and the faint perfume of wildflowers and sunshine.

Ascending at an easy pace, the flat land dotted with trees; the forest grows thicker.

A subtle change of light with deepening shades of green; a peaceful energy.

Dappled sunlight filters through tree tops; birds soar from branch to branch still calling.

The path feels springy underfoot with a bed of needles and leaves covering the hard dirt.

Cooler air carries scents of pine and a not unpleasant older smell; moldy, ancient, circle of life.

Patches of wildflowers stubbornly crowd into pockets of sun that reach the forest floor.

Shots of bright beauty in the more subdued light; tenacious and bold!

In the distance, a loud crash through the underbrush; a deer, squirrels, a dead branch fallen?

Deeper in the woods, wind in the tree tops sounds like the susurrating sigh of the sea; branches waving and swaying; stirring the calm air in a dance as old as time.

Walking deeper in, the trees are very close; sunlight is tightly filtered and shadows play over the towering trunks as the path soldiers on.

Remote peace settles over the path, interrupted only by chattering squirrels and the noisy jay, demanding attention.

The air is quite cool. It smells crisp and deep, so clean and pure. Deep breaths to capture that scent memory forever.

Sun is dipping lower; a little farther, then time to turn back. Shadows deepen; day is ending.  The scents, sights, sounds are etched into memory. Captured.

Never making it to the very end of this mountain path, the mystery of it calls out to me. Keep going! Solve the mystery…

Maybe it was never meant to be fully known.

The Cabin

SPRING

Bright morning with clean, clear air; the smell of new growth is rejuvenating.

Light and promising, the still early sharpness of new Spring dances on the light breeze.

A cup of English Breakfast tea with bacon on toast sits with me on the high deck overlooking the meadow that soon blends into the forest.

I smile and greet the flowers dotting the meadow below me with their heavy, waving heads; their pale colors teasing at the intensity to come.

Welcome Spring!

Green-yellow shoots of new grass force their way up through the gentle earth, stretching and coming alive under the light yellow sun.

The morning is already noisy; full of life; energetic.

The happy creek is splashing and rushing in full force; water from melted snow forcing its way down the mountain; tender reeds and cattails making a brave show of guarding the greening banks.

Birds have been up since dawn, delighting in the awakening bugs, fallen seeds and promises of good things to come.

It is time to hike; time to get out there and discover the hidden gems, which are just awakening and coming to life after a long winter of silent sleep.

The ground is still soft and springy, pliant under my slightly muddy boots.

Brisk walking, blood is pumping; alert for woodland creatures also enjoying the new birth and tender delicacies all around.

The shining lake seems happy; full to the brim with birds and creatures and bugs galore, busily gorging on Spring’s buffet; the light breeze ruffling the water; this lifts the soul.

Pleasant afternoon turns to cool evening; sun going down.

Sunset on the deck during the evening meal of pasta and salad with lemony iced tea; lovely.

Forest quieting; night falling.

SUMMER

Rising early to savor the cool of the morning; the sun is peeking over the tree tops.

Ginger Peach tea with granola, fresh fruit and yogurt accompany me to the deck.

Hello Summer!

It’s a lazy morning; creatures are up and stirring, but the pace is less frenetic.

The babble of the creek has taken on a more languid pace and I can just make out some footprints along its bank. Raccoon? Skunk?

Birds call and swoop; coaxing young ones to take flight; bugs and other delicacies brought to the wide, young mouths waiting inside downy nests.

Meadow flowers and grasses are tall now; twisting and dipping in the warming, lazy breeze.

The pace is certainly slower.

It’s time to layer up for the hike. Pleasant now, but the afternoon promises to be warm and close.

Canteens of water, beach towel, swim suit. To the lake!

Cool mountain water zings the skin and wakes up the senses after that first daring plunge!

Warm, drowsy, pine scented air creates the perfect backdrop for napping on the old beach towel.

Memories of camping and outdoor adventures flit though the mind as I gently doze.

Sleepy and comfy.

Watching and listening to scurrying, rustling sounds in the reeds by the lake; family of ducks skimming the lake for water bugs, tiny frogs and dangling berry bushes.

Duck family leaves behind ripples that spiral outward toward the shore.

Heading back to fire up the grill; lovely night to bar b que and drink chilled white wine as the sun goes down, leaving a fiery trail on the horizon.

Sun has set; here come the marshmallows, grahams and chocolate bars.

The evening is still and pleasant; perfect for S’mores and stories.

Forest quieting; night falling.

AUTUMN

A chill in the morning air; sleepy sun pushes over the horizon; animals stirring.

Hot coffee with cream; warm oatmeal with brown sugar, golden butter and walnuts heads out to the deck with me.

Cheers, Autumn!

The chair is cool to the touch.

Warm hoodie and long yoga pants are just right for this crisp morning.

Warm, but less intense sun light filters down through the beginning to be bare branches, leaving a warm impression. Lovely.

The air has that certain and distinctive Fall scent to it of browning leaves, dusty earth, crisp air that isn’t quite ready to mellow into deep winter. The comforting scent of pine.

The creek water pushes on, but with a slower gurgle; a gentle flow. Animal tracks at the edges; areas that are flattened down from what remains of a creature bed.

There are resilient, strong, stubborn grasses and flowers that are not yet ready to relax; that persist and bring color to a waning meadow and forest.

Time to hike.

Hiking in Autumn demands layers.

The warmer meadow where the sun still reaches and pours warmth onto backs and shoulders; then deeper into the woods with that unmistakable chill of the forest; fresh and chill it demands a bit faster pace to keep comfortable.

That lovely, primal scent of pine.

Boots kick up a bit of dust; that leftover pliant earth from Spring.

The lake is restful; last vestiges of birds calling and making their Southward plans.

A bit too chilly for a dip in the calm water.

A calm and peaceful place to sit among fallen leaves and turning grasses and read, until the Autumn sun begins its descent.

Chipmunks and fluffy grey squirrels are chattering; roaming the branches and fallen leaves for those precious seeds and nuts that will be hidden away.

Scurrying and intent on seeking and finding provision.

Winter is coming.

The lit grill gives off welcome warmth; as aromas of grilling vegetables and juicy steaks fill the air around the cozy cabin. Potatoes are baking in the oven.

Red wine with dinner on the deck; sunlight fading; S’mores make their last appearance of the season.

A warm fire might be nice tonight.

Forest quieting; night falling.

WINTER

Blankets feel so warm in the cold morning; is it time to get up?

All is quiet outside the cabin. The watery sun seems to be struggling, too.

Rise and grab long, warm, heavy sweatpants and sweatshirt plus thick fuzzy socks.

First, hot coffee with cream; the mug sends warmth to already chilled hands.

Stoking up the fire again; warmth begins to infuse the chilly cabin.

Ah, Winter! You’ve arrived!

Second cup of steaming coffee accompanies me to the deck.

I have to smell the freezing, chill air; so brisk it takes the breath away.

There it is!  That crisp and lovely scent of pine. Refreshing!

Nowhere to sit with the coffee, since the chairs are covered in ice.

Brave birds cover the bird feeder and relish the seeds I’ve put there for them; fluffed feathers making them look like plump, roly poly little things.

More coffee, eggs, sausage and toast go with me to the little table by the window, as I watch the winter morning unfold.

Fire crackling well now; should last for a bit.

Donning hat, gloves, scarf, heavy jacket, boots; out I go to brave the cold and see the meadow and forest that winter has created.

No one is really out and about this morning.

Evidence of creature activity is all around, but those brave souls must already be back in warm, earthy dens; watching me from hollowed out logs or nests in tree branches; wondering at the sight of me.

Trudging on for a bit; breathing in the wintry, piney air; chilled nose, ears and chin; time to turn back.

The idea of a warm blanket, hot water with lemon, comfy slipper socks by the fire with my book is too strong of a call.

Shedding layers and climbing under the blanket, I relax and am swept away by the book.

Clouds have rolled in while I read. Brisk wind crept up and is rattling bare branches. Colder.

Dinner tonight will be hot bubbling soup and warm bread that I took a break from reading to prepare.

Back under the blanket, watching the fire, I hear the shushing sound of ticking snow on the deck.

Tomorrow morning will be white.

The forest is quiet; night has fallen on the cabin.