The first day of fall arrives with summer clinging to its coattails. It is warm in the woods, the air holding on to the strength of the sun, which has not yet lost its power. Not really. It hangs lower in the sky these days, but the sky is so gloriously blue and completely unblemished, there is nothing to detract from the sun’s heat.
I walk that old familiar path with the dogs, yet it is different, as it always is. Today the treetops, yellowing with the season, hints of orange amongst the gold, glow like stained glass in a cathedral. Mushrooms, startlingly orange, bloom from the rich, dark forest floor, green moss so vibrant it seems to be lit from within, forms a soft carpet over rotted logs and stumps and fills in the spaces between trees. I step carefully around these things, look for the glistening line of a spider’s web so I can duck underneath, direct the dogs around with their clomping and stomping oblivious movements, watch them kick the tops off mushrooms, appear before me with fine strands of webs strung across their faces, between Molly’s ears.
“What?” They seem to say with their eyes as I shake my head disparagingly, and we continue on, clambering over the same downed trees we have been clambering over all year. “But look how the light has changed things,” I want to say to the dogs, “look how the colours are different, how the woods glow this time of year, how perfect it is because there are no mosquitoes, no blackfly, no deerfly, no ticks.”
And I do say these things when I can no longer keep them in as a warm breeze moves through the trees and I stop to watch the treetops sway, listen to them sigh in these few days between seasons before the smell of burnt leaves is carried on the wind with a bite of winter on its heels.
The dogs look at me, bright eyed and full of anticipation, and for a moment I think they get it, of course they do, we are in tune with these woods, the three of us, but then I realize at my feet the ground is strewn with sticks.