It was spoken off-handedly, as many lines are, but what it does is remind me to enjoy the last of the summer wildflowers, even as they go to seed; even as they begin to lose their lustre; even as the birds have come to rely on them for their own pre-migratory harvest.
This past weekend, we went hiking at the bio ski cottage behind Laurentian University, to the beaver dam, along the snowshoe trail. This trail is fit for single file walking and, in places, the lovely grasses and their feathery heads have grown taller than the average four-foot child.
Weather like we’ve been having demands activity in the gentlest way — a quiet prodding to come out and bear witness to the turning of the season. The kids had no problem “bearing witness,” when they slowed down to take notice.
Often it was to stop and pick up sticks that resembled weapons or hand grenades that could be launched into the dewy thickness for the dog to chase after.
We encouraged this raucous game, as it did much to discourage any bears from coming our way and kept the kids moving quickly so our happy pace wasn’t abated by any “pesky” philosophical meanderings or requests to “be carried.”
It was the first time I had visited this particular trail; I had been countless times on the Laurentian path towards Moonlight Beach, particularly in the winter months when the chickadees make an appearance.
But this trail, marked carefully with red signage, brought me through the same forest in quite an unexpected way.
What was for a long time a fairly placid trip on the wide, well-trod trail to feed the birds, this new, almost impassable route was the variation I needed to fully appreciate the coming of autumn. I forgot where I was; the familiar was made strange simply by approaching in a new direction.
Not only was there evidence of fall this deep in the woods, but there was also a delightful experience of abandonment to the curvature of the terrain. Suddenly, I had to pay attention, lest I tumble precipitously into the bracken below.
Anne and Diana, constant companions through all of the seasons (except for the time Anne got Diana drunk and was forbidden to see her), found delicious ways to remake their surroundings by taking short cuts or long cuts and renaming avenues as they saw fit to better suit the mood.
I think of them and their ability to appreciate the “same old places” simply by refreshing their eyes with variation. It’s how they came to love their red island and it’s how I’m growing to love my northern town.
Anne Boulton is an avid gardener who lives in Sudbury. Visit her blog at greenboots.ca or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org