Overhead, chilly breezes sniggle through lofty branches, nudging leaves onto the steaming cinder path opening before me. A junior squirrel, new to October, darts across a fallen log patterned with sworls of lichen. Only crickets impregnate the stillness. In the distance trios of red berries festoon the new growth of Missouri Honeysuckle, tangled like debris in the wake of a hurricane. And nearby, the barest suggestion of scarlet blushes the tops of burning bushes.

Breezes smart my face as I tie the hood under my chin and continue up the path. Mounds of Virginia Creeper enwrap a decades-old maple tree; their honeyed white blossoms long gone, have morphed into their next phase that resemble The Bearded Old Man, most appropriate for Halloween spooks. Brilliant pointed leaves of another shrub resemble the tunic of a court jester.

I stop. There’s something different about these woods. The colors are all off: olive, saffron, mustard, chocolate have begun to supplant summer’s bountiful greening. Insects have shredded leaves; dryness has shriveled others. It’s as if nature has been flummoxed. Stunned into inactivity

Not to grouse that seasonal dying is underway. Not to fret that drabness will be the new normal—but just for a while. Not to fear the encroaching darkness of winter. For those who can see, strange beauty awaits us.

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