As we enter the local cemetery, the blend of colors and vistas becomes almost mesmerizing, as if one has entered a magical kingdom, filled with beauty around every corner. The refreshment of nature is offered to us in an instant; we take a deep breath and slow down, live in the moment, and are renewed.
The kildeers have departed. Their migration began when daylight waned enough to signal their leave-taking. All is quiet on their usual barren hillside. Typical appealing behaviors of head bobbing, yanking worms from the ground, running hither and yon on slender legs, resting flat down in the shade of a slim tree, gone for now. We can only hope for yet another return for breeding in spring.
We find a group of fat wild turkeys in a cluster on a dirt mound, foraging. One stretches its neck to feed on grass seed atop a tall, slender stalk. The mother begins her walk toward the woods and all seven offspring line up in military fashion, one by one, evenly spaced, to follow her. The male has left her to raise them on her own, quite successfully, it appears.
There is a spatter of light rain, which enhances the colors of trees turning autumn reds, oranges, and golds. Some are even pinkish, guava-like in hue. When reflected in the river, the scene is serene, impressionistic. A red- tailed hawk flies onto a tree which has both dead branches and very alive colorful leaves. The magnificent bird blends in, its camouflage making it difficult to spot or even keep an eye on. It preens a bit, alert, surveys the area.
The weather turns summery for our long weekend. Folks are out in force, running, walking, pushing prams, walking dogs. Sparrows frolic in the hedge, bathe with vigor in dust spas, flinging dirt up, retreating to preen. At night a hazy moon looks out from behind soft clouds.
At the river, mallards on a dock sunbathe while sleeping, heads tucked under wings, It is such a peaceful scene, with the the sparkle on the calm water, it evokes a meditative aura. Kayakers paddle and chat, as if on a care-free summer’s day.
Out toward apple country, a planted row of equidistant large maples, perfectly shaped, turn red. A bald eagle soars low over a furrowed field toward a small body of water, unexpected. Deep red vines spill over the top of ancient stone walls. The pond, studded with lily pads, reflecting autumnal colors, is hedged by brush turning bronze.
It is the simple farms which attract me, just hardworking folks displaying their crops, artwork, cooking, folk arts, and humor. Bins of gourds in varied hues, bright pumpkins, squashes, and glowing dark red apples are a feast for the eyes. The air is perfumed with fall, we hear crunching through leaves, and there are aromas of freshly made apple cider doughnuts.
We enjoy the taste of crisp, fresh radishes, and newly picked sweet corn, each kernel shimmering like a pearl. Maple candies, the centers melting in the mouth, evoke images of tapping trees, hauling sap to boil it down for hours. It takes ten gallons of maple sap to make one quart of maple syrup.
At the cemetery, a huge hawk flies from a high tree, passing only feet above the top of our car, to a low gravestone. It stands, majestic, before flying up to a bare branch to devour its small dark prey item.
This seems to be my season of the hawk, as at the Mt. Auburn cemetery, a juvenile red-tail is on the ground in front of the car. It flies up on a diagonal to a branch, with a wriggling small rodent, drops it, and flies to the ground to retrieve it. Just a few feet away, it collects that prey and flies up to the gravestone of “Emerson”. Then it returns to the the tree and seems to fumble with balancing, and holding onto the live prey. It manages to finish off that meal, while occasionally staring at us with its feral, piercing gaze.
We are treated to a vision of a Seven Sons shrub, as we serendipitously encounter the cemetery botanist, who leads us to it and explains the parts of the flower, and the unusual nature of this species, as the sepals, which enclose white blooms, turn pinkish in fall and appear to be a second blooming.
Back in my yard, I hear a solo recital, birdsong, sweet and varied, for a long interval. Then the hidden mockingbird hops onto the ground from a bush, as if to take a bow, and struts toward me! Showing off its striking white markings.
Nature observing is often all about being in the right place at the right time, exploring frequently, and being alert to the mysteries which unfold around us.