A few semesters ago, one of my professors assigned a creative writing project to the class. We had to venture into nature (a forest or a park) tree times a day and write down our observations. As much as I dreaded waking up at dawn for a stroll in the park on a Saturday, the result was surprising and amazing even though I am generally not a fan of nature. The below essay is the result of my observations and adventures in our local park on a chilly autumn day…
Autumn has captured the attention of many poets and novelists with its silent magnificence and grace. It has inspired artists and photographers to freeze in time its radiance and majesty. Throughout time, an extraordinary amount of poems and paintings has been dedicated to this magical season. Autumn – with gold and scarlet shades, unpredictable weather and nature’s silent preparation for winter – continues to fascinate and inspire us to this day.
“Summer ends, and Autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night,” wrote a well known American author, Hal Boland. As wonderful as a full moon might be, having it up in the dark sky every night would take away from its glory. Autumn comes with a fresh breath of air after sweltering summer months, giving nature, and every living creature, a much needed break and time to adjust to the upcoming winter months…
Dawn. The sun is just starting to peak from under the cover of the night. There is a crisp sensation in the air, tingling and tickling all around. It’s quiet. The nature has not woken up yet, even the early risers are still whispering, careful not to wake the others before it is time. The civilization a couple of hundred feet outside of this forest oasis is still sleeping as well, only occasional cars slowly pass by disturbing the morning peace. Soon, soon everything will come to life.
The sky has changed colors again and is now showing signs of the glistening sunshine, which is about to spill over on everything in its path. Birds are meeting the sunrise with happy twitter, they almost seem in a hurry to start their day. A light breeze picks up, helping an elderly oak tree to stretch its heavy arms and to blow away the reminders of night from sleepy shrubbery. The soft wind brings with it distant sounds of the awakening town – people are waking up too.
Forest creatures are starting to appear from different hiding spots – ducks and geese are quacking morning greetings to each other, squirrels are already occupied with their constant search for food and even bunnies, who are not too afraid to come out so early in the day, hopped to a grass spot covered in sunshine, to warm up from the cold night.
Little by little it’s getting warmer. First joggers and fishermen are starting to violate the nature’s morning innocence, squashing the carefully placed leaves on the ground by the wind and rattling metal buckets with fishing equipment, scaring the tiny creatures back into their hiding spots. Shortly, the park will be completely filled with people and only ducks and geese will stand their ground on the pond’s shores.
The sun is high above the horizon now, warming up the cold ground. Full glory of the autumn colors is visible now – red maple trees, yellow oaks and light green willows are gently swaying in the wind. Seems like this year the nature is taking its time preparing for the winter months, letting us enjoy the great shades of this magnificent season in abundance, inspiring new works by poets and novelists, by artists and photographers…
“A smile plays upon her withering lips; / She cannot sense as yet the gaping maw of death; / A crimson glow still flits across her face. / Today she lives, tomorrow she is gone.” This is a part of a poem written by a Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. He preferred autumn to the other seasons and referred to her as he would to a woman – “her lips… she cannot”. He spent much of his time outside enjoying autumn’s natural beauty, embracing every detail and every moment he was able to witness before the cold winter months.
Noon. Today is still very warm, although the atmosphere possesses a new essence – cool fresh air, with a scent of mystery. Trees are slowly shedding leaves burned over the summer months, covering the ground with crunchy foliage. The stems, tree trunks and branches seem much darker now against the bright colored palette. That’s about all that is visible from the outside of the forest kingdom, but inside the nature is preparing for winter…
At first it seemed very quiet, until the environment stopped paying attention to the outsider – me. I looked around, allowing my vision and sight to adjust to the unfamiliar surroundings. Suddenly, I saw a leaf from an Aspen tree a few feet away from me, brake off the branch and fall to the ground. It ripped off all on its own, not from the wind, since there was none, perhaps it just got too heavy from its own moisture. It was unusual to see how a leaf tears off on its own and falls, almost fighting, descending down a bizarre trajectory and landing with complete silence, blending with the other fallen brothers, completely disappearing. I looked back up at the tree, but no other leaves fell. Possibly, that one was just hanging on by a thread and that’s why it fell for no good reason.
There was complete silence, as the depths of the underwater world. Then I noticed that my vision now allowed me to see deeper into the woods than before – my eyes finally adjusted. More and more new trees were now appearing in my sight, the forest was growing larger, and the world was expanding. However, the growth was invisible and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t catch the expansion in action, only the final result.
I looked up – the sky was bright blue, no clouds. The sun rays were breaking through the top of the trees, glistening all around. I heard a slight rustling from a pine stump next to me and saw a long mustache appear, following by the beetle it was attached to. He did not move, then crawled to the surface of the stump and froze there. His mustache twitched and I wondered if he could see me. I thought that he could and figured it would be best to walk away – I didn’t want to invade his privacy.
It was still quiet, as if the sound was put on mute. Suddenly, I heard a rustling noise behind me on the ground. I quickly turned around to look – it was a mouse. She sat under a bush, motionless, and looked at me with bulging eyes. Maybe it was a rat, because it was quite large for a mouse. Luckily, she didn’t seem to like me and with a swift wiggle of her tail, she disappeared into the foliage.
The forest stopped paying attention to the intruder and came alive. I thought I heard a woodpecker, working its beak against a tree trunk. A couple of birds got spooked by the knocking and flew off the branches they were hiding on. They looked down at me while flying overhead. The beetle, mouse and birds were all seeing me for the first time that is why they looked at me with such caution and curiosity – I was a new occupant.
Few minutes later I saw a butterfly, then a squirrel and I felt many more eyes of wild life on me, but I couldn’t see them. There isn’t too much life visible in an autumn forest, but that is exactly why every sound and every movement was felt and heard by me. I stood there for a few more minutes, watching as more leaves fell down from the trees. I breathed in the crisp air, letting my lungs expand – air smelt and felt much different here then by my house. I looked around one last time, wished the beautiful forest goodnight and headed home.
“October is a symphony of permanence and change” – Bonaro W. Overstreet once wrote. Autumn’s weather doesn’t just change day to day, it also changes drastically by from day to night. Most nights in October are cold, producing occasional frost on the ground; however, most days are still warm, heated by the warm rays of the sun.
Midnight. The sun is long gone and the sky doesn’t bare any reminiscence of the wonderful orange shades it displayed a few hours ago, while tucking the sun away. The night is even quieter then the early morning time – everything is sleeping. The trees are tired from a long day of swaying in the wind, the animals are all asleep in their homes and even the birds are taking a few hours to maintain the eerie silence.
There are no clouds in the sky tonight, only millions of little stars. The moon is high above the tree line, not yet full, but bright nevertheless. There is a reflection in the dark waters of the pond – showing a picture of the same sky, just backwards and broken up with ripples made by fish that has come up to the surface. There are little shadows from geese and ducks, that look like little dark bumps on the ground – their heads are tucked under the wings – they are sleeping as well.
It’s cold. The air is crystal clear. There are no bugs or flies, no humidity and every sound travels through the air uninterrupted. A tiny air bubble that escaped and popped on the surface of the pond can be heard a few feet away. There is no wind at all, thus it is very quiet and calm.
Few more hours and the nature will start to wake up all over again. To grace us with autumn beauty the nature needs to rest and tomorrow it will show us what colors it is capable of producing and what miracles come with it.
As gorgeous as autumn is, I still prefer summer and the warmer the better
Dying to know if I am alone in this – what is your favorite season?
For a printer friendly version of this post, click here: Autumn’s Day.