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If you spend time with a tree, it will share its story, says Robin Wall Kimmerer, botanist professor at SUNY and author of Braiding Sweetgrass (2013), her way of introducing her students to their classroom forest. And it’s precisely story that tweaks imaginations and sparks fire; without it, we languish.

From my study window, I glimpse my neighbor’s golden raintree thriving by his driveway, its growth since last year, considerable. I used to walk by it in all seasons: summer’s clusters of small yellow flowers mantling the ground beneath with the appearance of wetness—thus its name; autumn’s bronzing its fruit into what looks like three-pointed Chinese pagodas, only slowly dropping them; and winter’s sloughing off gray leaves and black pods to inquisitive gray squirrels.

So, what does this golden raintree say to me? Have I picked up its story? We both have been around for some years and I’ve been gifted with this new day to appreciate summer’s pristine splendor: the primary greens, still glossy, and the secondary yellows, still sun-catching—they play off each other and invite us to do the same.

Although change can be hairy at times, still it happens. The golden raintree is the same tree, but different and more herself. Yes, she’s feminine and lends herself to storytelling.

Look for her along city streets, backyards, and be delighted.

March’s sunrays play the comedian, intent upon joshing buds erupting from rough canes of the forsythia bush next to my porch. For seven springs I have gloried in its abrupt flowering, fingered its yellow bell-shaped blossoms, studied its rain-soaked pendant shapes shielding reproductive parts, sorrowed over storms splatting spent-yellows within pools of mud; then, later noted its fruit: several winged seeds in dry capsules.

Such was also my experience of tangled mounds of forsythias in the nearby woods when able to walk the cinder path: their color wafting me to a wordless realm, their untidiness transporting me to a strange order that made total sense.

Yet, the process of unfolding happened too quickly, multiple lessons held over to the following year, if I remembered—Perhaps this year will be different.

October’s whispers, subtle and unobtrusive, drop clues of gardens’ metamorphosis: drooping purple cone flowers having had too much sun; sagging lamb’s ears losing their springiness; yellowing edges of hostas collapsing on the ground; browning of once lavender sedum blooms sagging over ceramic pots; black-eyed susans and sunflowers bereft of seeded centers; sparse knockout roses clinging to nearly-bare branches; and clumps of yellow and white mums boasting hardiness into November. Annuals have already been dug up, their colors having brightened passersby.

Upon these same whispers also float changes in shrubs: red berries cresting drooping dogwood leaves, yellowness creeping up forsythia branches, gray-greenness puckering lilac leaves, blushing berries clustering on branches of Christmas hollys, evergreens spitting pine cones on walkways, London plane tree’s bark hardening before the onset of winter’s thievery, lackluster leaves on viburnums grieving the approaching cold, and so much more.

Such perennials have to die, but with proper care return each spring. 

And with these changes also appear boisterous Jack-o-lanterns, gourds of yellows, oranges, whites, and greens, ornamental cauliflower heads, broomstick-riding witches, ghosts, skeletons, werewolves—prelude to Halloween’s deepening darkness and meditation, if so moved.

Whether it’s October’s whispers or shrieks, we’re invited to take stock of this strange beauty and listen. No October is like any other.

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