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Drizzle hiccoughs through lowering clouds that resemble circus elephants at play.

Occasional splats on my slicker intrude upon the stillness and quicken my breathing. Languid breezes muss my hair, and my nose twitches with smells of musk. Alive to the freshness around me, I pause.

A solitary crow caws, as it flaps its wings against the leaden sky and soars to the upper reaches of an evergreen. Ahead of me, the slick asphalt road snakes around the bend, lined with a grove of yellow bamboo. Heaps of luminous leaves by the curb, their stems upended, smack of exhausted gymnasts after a tournament. A few whole acorns, unlike others crunched by passing cars, draw the toe of my sandal.

I resume walking, slowly—So much to take in—In the distance looms a mustard- yellow maple; from its brown-to-black-divided trunk articulate mothering branches that offer more inspiration, more protection—Droplets hug shriveled leaves of shrubs—A calico cat darts for cover in a nearby yard—Glistening jack-o-lanterns grin from front porches, and spent chrysanthemums brown and list sideways in gardens.

In every cell of my being subtle rhythms resonate: within them, I surrender, anew, to the multiple changes occurring within and around me. I give thanks.

 

 

 

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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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She pushes her rusty wheelbarrow under a milky sun.

Shadow of a humped crone yawns before her.

October-chills tweak her ruddy cheeks.

White hairs peak from her red scarf like kids on a holiday

She pauses.

Memories of plantings, feedings, waterings burgeon her heart.

July’s riot of reds, oranges, and whites quickens her spirit.

Ahead lie rows of her spent garden:

mums, yellowed to white,

marigolds, splayed upon the damp earth,

naked stalks of red salvia, impotent in the biting winds,

and so much more.

She stoops, slowly.

Mud-stained hands prune snaking rose branches, rip withered vines.

Tangled roots gasp, suddenly naked.

Beleaguered blossoms dangle from the lip of her wheelbarrow.

Ravens squawk.

Hours pass.

Musk steams from the riven furrows, blanketed with compost.

Again, she awaits Spring’s blush.

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