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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: October 21, 2021

Mid-Fall

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,




**********

I know we've reached the middle of the fall season because this morning there was light frost in some areas when the dogs and I set out to walk. Forewarned of the frost, I wore both a hooded sweatshirt and a windproof jacket along with my warm gloves. Halloween decorations are no longer premature, but the impetus for me to buy candy, should I be lucky enough to get munchkins.

The road-kill fawn of the year lying a quarter-mile north has been reduced in just two weeks to some hide and major bones. A scapula was dragged a short distance away, but like the other disarticulated skeletal remains, it was picked clean. I grieve such vehicle-related deaths, as they seem more wasteful than a wolf or cougar kill, which has a purpose in Mother Nature's plan. But humans have replaced these natural predators with metal boxes hurtling down roads at high speed. This scene also reminds me, though, that it is almost easier to think of what wouldn't eat such a find than it is to list all the things that probably fed on the carcass ?? coyotes, raccoons, crows, blue jays, vultures, bears. Even rodents gnaw on bones for the calcium they contain. I must keep my dogs on a short leash, because they absolutely love carrion too, and regard a dead deer as attractive as a pizza is to me.

The garden is nearly bare but I won't like Mike rototill until a frost kills my thick hedges of zinnias. They are still in full, vibrant bloom, and are alive with pollinators on sunny days. The zinnias help the insects prepare for the long winter, and I won't prematurely deprive them of this increasingly scarce resource. My sunflowers are likewise holding up the tilling of the messy garden, and I enjoy watching small birds picking the seeds off the tall, blackening stalks of the flowers. Not all the seed gatherers look like locals, so perhaps this is a "roadside restaurant" for migrants.

I am washing the windows, inside and out. The sliding doors and the window by the cat tree are covered with months of dog and cat nose smears; the outside windows, especially those near a nighttime source of light, are covered with abandoned spider webs. Even the oldest webs maintain an incredible amount of stickiness; adhering to my sleeves and toweling with remarkable persistence. I marvel at the gift given the arachnid clan, this ability to manufacture such a substance in their tiny bodies.

The woods trails are a mass of layer up layer of fallen leaves. Toward the bottom are the ash trees, which dropped first this year ?? noticeably first, perhaps as the result of the emerald ash borers which are pillaging the trees. Then the maples, then the popples. The birch seem to be lagging a bit behind. I never had a chance to study this sequence before; and it may be different every fall, so I will watch to see what happens in our woods next year. Mixed in are dropped white pine needles and shrub leaves, resulting in the second noisiest walking conditions of the year on dry, windless days. (First place goes to breaking trail through ice-glazed snow in the dead of winter when the silence of the woods is near complete.)

We've enjoyed a long, warm October so far; I'd be tempted to call it an "Indian summer," but according to an almanac I consulted, there is actually a criteria for a true Indian summer. It requires an atmosphere that is warm but also hazy or smoky, without wind. The warm days must follow a cold spell or a hard frost, but be before the first snowfall. And it must occur between St. Martin's Day (November 11,) and November 20.

That's a pretty tight criteria, so I'll continue my habit of calling any string of unexpectedly mild, sunny late fall days Indian summer weather ?? or maybe I'll try "false Indian summer," - something of a gift, unexpected; to be treasured and made the most of.

I have to admit, I will welcome the first hard frost, like a lot of other allergy sufferers. But in the meantime, there is so much to notice, wonder about, and enjoy.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints, or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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