It was days like this that I missed so much while living in Botswana some 27 years ago. Autumn days filled with rain and soggy fallen leaves. Cool, damp temperatures and umbrellas and bright colors everywhere. Those who follow and report on autumn leaf color tell us that the spectacle is not as stunning as in most years but the color that we don't doesn't matter very much to me. I am enjoying, as always, the colors that we do have and the colors that dot my own home landscape. Purples in the blackhaw and arrowwood viburnums, oranges and reds in the black gums and serviceberries, yellows in the wonderful river birch and crabapples, burgundys in the oaks and dogwoods. Fall may be a time of unsettledness but it is also a time of deep satisfaction as the palette of the yard changes daily.
The bird and insect population in the yard has changed as well. We had our last ruby-throated hummingbird on October 8th and as of a couple of days ago there was still a lingering stray Monarch butterfly or two. I am not sure just why but there seem to be assassin bugs everywhere I look this year and I am glad not to be small enough to become their prey. For the last few days the feeder just beyond the kitchen window has hosted, among the many myriad goldfinches, a lone female purple finch and I understand that there are large flocks of purple finches down from Canada where the coniferous cone crop they depend on has failed. Perhaps I'll see more of them and maybe red-breasted nuthatches or pine siskens as well. In some ways, for a birder, this time of early fall has a similar feel as does late winter for a gardener. The season is filled with the anticipation of what birds may come looking for winter sustenance, just as the late winter season is filled with imaginings of what the coming garden might contain. Being both a birder and a gardener is best of all, perhaps, because each season brings its own anticipation of what is to come.
I had a new friend stop in yesterday for a brief visit, her first to my home and yard. Her gleeful appreciation of all she saw outside-the birds, the colors, and even the plants that had long ago finished blooming was as a gift. I received a note from her today telling me again of how much she enjoyed being here and wondering if I more or less took for granted how much life abounded within the boundaries of our property. I joyfully wrote her back declaring that in fact, I never do take such things for granted because I delight in them so much. The yard contines to become that which I have seen in my imagination for many years. To be capable of dreams and to work towards their fulfillment are gifts and I am doubly blessed to be allowed to do both.