“I spent the afternoon astraddle the ridge of the new barn-loft roof laying down a ridgecap, a course of overlapping shingles that covers the seam where the shingles meet from each slanting roof face. It would have been difficult not to have been happy up there. The fall migration of monarch butterflies, stunning creatures of orange and black, has begun, and numbers of them flew past me while I worked. The sumac along the woodlot edge has started to redden. I could see north beyond the river, over ridge after wooded ridge. After a few days of rain, the skies have cleared to the deep blue that reminds me that Missouri is a part of the West.”
– Sue Hubbell, A Country Year
Autumn is settling in, slowly and yet decidedly pushing summer away.
I see the tiny yellow leaves from our huge walnut trees twirling through the air when the gusty breeze kicks up here on our farm. Driving down the long lane, deep red and vibrant golden leaves swirl about, reminding us of a passing season.
Setting out on an early morning walk with our farm dog, Channing, I hear the crunch of leaves underfoot. Channing darts ahead, returning soaking wet from the heavy autumn dew.
The Autumnal Equinox has once again come, and another September is bowing to October. The night air is filled with a bracing chill, and gathering around our bonfire offers welcome warmth. Sweatshirts, drawn close like old friends, come out of the back of closets for another season.
Football parties, cider and donuts, tractors pulling hopper wagons, combines pulled from the depths of the machinery shed — all are signs of the season. These sights join the scent of burning leaves, wood smoke reaching upward toward steely blue-gray skies, apples ripening on the trees of an old, well-established orchard. Another blessed harvest is upon us.
As I sit reading in a sunny spot near day’s end, still wearing my summer clothing, I notice the sharp sound of acorns falling, cracking and then tumbling against the metal barn roof as they roll to the ground. It isn’t long before the sun fades now in the late afternoon, forcing me inside to grab for warmer layers of clothing.
Welcoming fresh air and sunshine, I open the windows at the height of the day, but find myself closing them against the chill in the air by late afternoon.
School buses and harvesting equipment now dot the roadway, a reminder that another summer has vanished, being enveloped by a new year for the school-aged children. Our Amish neighbor girls, now three little sisters heading off to school together, wave to me each morning as they walk through our farm on their long journey to a day of class.
This past weekend, we had the joy of a visit from my father’s only surviving sister and her husband. Miriam and Bill moved to Alaska when I was 6, and visits from them have always been treasured gifts over the years. As we stood around the bonfire, the laughter and stories filling the air, I was reminded once again how much my father remains a large part of those stories.
My daughter, now back in college classes, said not long ago that the end of summer still always makes her sad. She was — and is — a little fish who could enjoy swimming every single day if only the weather would allow it. It was always a bittersweet day when we closed our own pool at the close of each summer.
“It will be right here for us when spring returns,” I would always say. With a heavy sigh, she would remind us just how long Ohio winters seem to be.
When winter arrives, we will, as always, take it one day at a time.
For now, we enjoy the gifts of an early fall.