The other day as I drove home from work, I caught a flash of gold in the passing birch trees. It could have been mistaken for a single, dying branch, but it was not alone. By the time I neared our dirt road, just slightly north and at a higher elevation than town, most of the trees had been touched with yellow and orange.
This is how it arrives. Quietly. Gently. There is a chill in the air when I go outside to close up the hen house for the night. The cranberries have ripened bright red on the hillside. Fireweed has bloomed into downy seeds. The garden rows hold mostly vacant cabbage stalks and picked-over pea vines. And finally, after a summer of endless days, nightfall now brings complete darkness.
A few mornings ago, Mr. Baer called to tell me he had shot a spike-fork moose in the neighborhood. It was opening day. They will let the meat hang in their root cellar for a few days before they begin to butcher. On the highway, pickup trucks haul the evidence of other successful hunts — caribou antlers and full game bags. We hope to be so fortunate when we go sheep and moose hunting these next few weeks.
This time of year is a frenzy of preparation. We split wood, pick berries, hunt, and harvest the garden vegetables. As the days grow shorter, time seems to slip by more quickly.
Last night my daughter ran in from the back porch and announced, “It smells like snow outside, Mommy.” In truth, the snow won’t come for another six weeks or so. But it is, somehow, already in the air.
Autumn touches me with a sweet kind of melancholy. It’s something akin to the precise moment when the setting sun casts a golden light across the land, just before it gives way to cool twilight.
The beauty comes, in part, from its fleeting nature.