Snapdragons still blooming profusely are also providing late nectar for hummingbirds and bees, their colors and velvety texture keeping some hot spots in the garden’s yellowing autumn palette.
Riding with my neighbor down the hill I realized I had an opportunity not to miss. I asked her to pull over at the bottom, in the hairpin turn where Buck Canyon emerges and crosses under the road on its path to the Smith Fork River. She opened the sunroof and let me stand on the seat and ride like a prom queen up the hill to Crawford, slowing down or stopping when I asked.
Yesterday the winds before the storm blew through the yard, and the birch tree, splendid yellow until then, lost its leaves. I stood for quite awhile in the glory of their blowing flying falling, watching and hearing the essence of autumn. Potted snapdragons, pansies and petunias still punctuate the patio with pops of vivid color, while the trees and shrubs I’ve planted in the past decade have finally filled the yard with fall color. The peach tree orange, scarlet maple, and one rosebush somewhere between; the tiny aspen quaking gold, and the beautiful big birch showering me with lovely yellow leaves like petals. Leaves! I have leaves!
Leaves of all colors blow, from snowberry and sand cherry, honeysuckle and rose, apple and crabapple, lilac, foresteria, forsythia; the apricot alone holds out, still mostly green but turning. I have leaves enough in my yard to rake, at last! But I will likely leave them where they lie, except I’ll rake the pink gravel paths; elsewhere they will stay in layers and piles where they fall, enriching the ground. All the grasses tawny and the seed heads tan and brown, the garden proves itself as gorgeous in late October as at the height of summer bloom. It’s been a long, lovely, and loving autumn. Today is grey with rain and snow on the way, and still the garden glows. A few more days or weeks, if we’re lucky a month, some short span of time, and winter will be upon us.
I marvel at the things I’ve planted and nurtured and what they have done this autumn. I haven’t seen a mature fall here in my yard for a long long time. All these shrubs and trees I’ve planted, Nanking cherry, chokecherry, aspen, birch, maple, apricot, honeysuckle, lilac, snowberry, sumac, plum, roses, and more, their leaves turning all kinds of colors all fall long, then dropping to color carpet the garden ground, they’ll mulch and then break down to feed the soil. Such a rich gift. All the grasses going blonde and orange and shades between yellow and green, swaying in the breeze and popping off seeds. I have been visually wallowing in this waxing embrace of autumn.
“May I be a bride forever married to amazement,” Janis quoted Mary Oliver, and yes, may I. We have cold now, the trees in a day lost their leaves. Until just this last week, even as rifle shots reverberate from just up north along the canyon, honeybees still found nectar and pollen in the reproducing salvias, each multi-headed stem holding one, two, a few single tiny blue blossoms. Nepeta reblooms a third or fourth time. There’s an art to cutting back, knowing what to cut back how far and when.
The bees are put to bed, their hive surrounded by straw in a configuration that I hope will insulate the hive and prevent snow from blowing in their front door, now well fortified with a propolis barrier lined with a few bee-sized holes. I wish I could see a cross-section of this cold-barricade, it looks as though some of the holes go straight in, and others curve or angle with yet more protection behind. On warm days they continue to come and go a few at a time; but often when I stop to check on them there is not a bee to be seen, or just one, looking slow and cold, guarding the threshold.
Warm, sunny days full of color, adventure, abundance; crystal cold nights chill tired bones.
Two kittens, playing, leap the stream,
roll and wrestle, tag and tumble,
race, chase, grab and rumble,
scuffle under oaks through last year’s leaves.
Tawny mottled bodies vanish under summer trees.
The sound of their pouncing continues unseen.
Dogs on the rim stand rigid, aquiver,
engrossed in the antics below.
The cats crash back from deep shadows,
reach with sheathed claws in big soft paws,
leap, stretching in a single line ~
one behind the other holding on ~
they arc and spring, spring as one
upon a sapling, bend it to the ground.
Long tails white-tips flashing,
graceful lithe limbs thrashing,
ungainly kittens tangle with the boughs.
Oblivious to us above them on the canyon rim,
the first leaps out across the stream;
the second sprawls in the bowed canopy,
unhurried, unworried, spraddles the limbs,
bounces; wiggles to the ground.
The sapling springs upright.
A gift, a truly awesome sight,
wild feline abandon:
cougar cubs at play,
learning as they leap and run
the skills to catch their prey.
Below freezing the past two nights, brrrrr, and it took me all day to warm up. The first chill of winter is always hard to accept. But a small fire in the woodstove all afternoon kept the cold at bay, and I gathered in the last green tomatoes for pickles. Romas from the farm will bake into paste tomorrow, warming the house.
Driving Friday up on Kebler Pass. These fleeting fall colors. One cold blowing storm and they’re gone. It happens every fall. You look outside and see perfection, in aspen turning on the mountains, gold and warm, winter just a breath of frost away. “It is the perfect day,” you think, “I’ll go tomorrow.” It never fails. You wake and find that winter’s come: overnight, the trees are barren. But not this year! I’m taking advantage of every free half day to get up and out in it.