Category Archives: Nature

Don’t Mess with Time

It was an eventful weekend. We went to two craft fairs and sold lots of books. Some people were repeat customers who were eager to read my second book, Library Lost. Always a good thing for an author to hear.

It was also the weekend where we set the clocks back an hour and went from daylight savings time to eastern standard time. I always live in dread of this weekend when we mess with time, and night comes crashing down an hour earlier. I am not a fan of short days and long nights, and, to my way of thinking, it would be easier to adapt if we could approach the long dark more gradually. Simply put, I wish we could do away with daylight savings time and stick to eastern standard time year round. This would allow for more light in the morning when people are heading to work and children are going to school. We would sacrifice an hour of light in the summer, but having dusk come at 8:00 p.m. instead of 9:00 p.m. should not be a hardship for too many people. Seems unlikely to happen, but I continue to hope.

At least three weeks behind schedule, the first hard frosts of the season came this weekend. This was the temperature when I got up this morning.

The frost nipped the nasturtiums. Although the orange flower is still perky, the leaves are decidedly droopy.

Autumn is a time of subtraction. First the hummingbirds go, then the geese, and many other birds follow. Butterflies migrate. Leaves fall. The crickets’ song has been stilled, and I miss the sweet sound.

Still, there is beauty in November’s austere landscape.

Looking down in my own yard,

and across the Kennebec River, about ten miles away from where we live.

Winter subtracts even more. But that is yet to come.

 

That Golden, Dazzling Time of Year

Here we are, heading toward late October, a special time of year for us as this was when our eldest daughter was born forty-two years ago. (Oh, my!) What a darling beautiful baby she was. I suppose most mothers think this about their babies, and rightly so. They are our best beloveds.

Speaking of beauty…in Maine it is all around us even though the storm took down many of the leaves.

When I look up

and when I look down.

Even the black-eyed Susans, which have dropped their petals, still glimmer in October.

In October, the landscape positively glows, partly because of the brilliant leaves and partly because of the way the sun, low in the sky, sends its dazzling light at a slant. As I sit at my desk, the month’s golden loveliness flickers in my peripheral vision, and I find myself gazing outside far more than I should. (Fantasy novels don’t write themselves.)

Well, October comes but once a year, and it would be foolish not to drink in this glorious month. As with May, I wish I could hold onto October’s coattails and implore her to stay longer. “Don’t rush, don’t rush.”

But Nature is on her own schedule, and luminous October must give way to the muted russets of November.

Until then…

 

 

After the Storm

Early this morning, a fierce storm blew up the coast of Maine, knocking out power to more than 217,000 homes. (A notable percentage in a state that has a little over one million people.) In coastal communities, especially in southern Maine, trees came crashing down, roads were filled with debris, and schools were closed.

In central Maine, where we live, there was wind and rain, but the storm lost steam as it came inland. As far as I can tell, there are no widespread power outages in our area, and there was nary a flicker of lights at our cozy house in the woods.

We knew the storm was coming, and we were ready. The larder is well stocked with cans of baked beans, soup, cookies, crackers, and peanut butter. We have a little camp stove to heat the soup and beans.  In our cellar, we have big covered buckets filled with water because for us, no power means no water. Fortunately, we did not have to resort to our stash of storm supplies.

I am an ocean person, and once upon a time, I longed to live closer to the coast so that I could go for frequents walks on the beach. Not anymore. In these days of climate crisis, the storms along the Maine coast have gotten stronger and more frequent. Once upon a time, when I was young, October in Maine used to be a placid month, known more for its brilliant foliage than for powerful storms that would surge up the coast and take down trees. But for the past several years, October has been a month that has brought at least one corker of a tempest that has knocked out power, primarily in the southern part of the state right by the sea.

Occasionally, in central Maine, we get hit, but not with anywhere near the frequency that southern Maine and the coast do. I am glad I live sixty miles inland, and even if I suddenly came into money, I would not move closer to the ocean. Sad, especially for someone like me who loves the sea, but this is our new reality.

Around our house, the wind—thank goodness—did not take down any trees, but it did take down more than a few leaves, and there is now a carpet rather than a sprinkle.

Some of the trees are downright bare.

But a peak through branches at our house reveals that despite the wind and rain, there are lovely leaves left on some of the trees.

And best yet, the crickets are still singing.

 

The Pleasures of My Own Yard

Many people like to travel—to see new sights and to eat new food. While I understand the need for novelty, I find that I get plenty of variety in my own yard. Best of all, I don’t have to take a plane, bus, or automobile. I merely have to go down a few steps, and there are I am, surrounded by gardens and trees that look different with every season.

Right now, in Maine, it is fall, a lovely but bittersweet time of year,  when all things green and growing are getting ready for the long cold of winter. In the front yard the leaves of the Solomon’s seal have turned a ghostly white, a pale contrast with the black-eyed Susans, which are beginning to fade.

The leaves of the hosta Frances Williams are yellowing and curling in on themselves.

In the backyard, there is a blaze of color in the woods, a bold punctuation among the evergreens. Soon the leaves will fall, a sprinkle of red on the forest floor.

We haven’t taken in the patio chairs and table, and it often continues to be warm enough for me to sit and listen to the crickets singing their song of fall. So far, the little jumping creatures haven’t been stilled by the cold. Neither have the nasturtiums, which are still blooming, albeit in a more desultory way than they were at their peak.

Often times, in the waning warm of autumn, Little Miss Watson keeps me company.

And watching over everything is a Spirit of the woods, guarding the yard whatever the season.

 

Those Glowing Copper Ferns

A few days ago, I took a short walk up the road, looking for signs of autumn. In some ways, it was a melancholy walk as I remembered all the times I went out with my dog Liam, who would wait patiently as I took pictures. How I still miss that dog buddy!

I was looking for colorful leaves, and I did find some. However, there is still quite a bit of green; peak foliage is probably a week or two away.

Instead, what caught my eye, as I looked down, was the glowing copper of the ferns as they lit up the dark woods.

One of the great pleasures of living in the woods is that in every time of year there is something to notice. In Maine, the passing of the seasons is marked by exuberant new growth, fecundity, austereness, cold, stillness, and—if I’m to be honest—slush and mud. (I don’t want to give the impression that Maine is a state of unrelenting beauty. We have peak ugliness as well as peak foliage.)

After walking awhile and being dazzled by the ferns, I turned around and headed home. I noticed this tree stripping down to its essence, the first of many more bare trees to come.

Homebody that I am, even after a short walk, it is always a pleasure to return to our home nestled in the woods.

 

 

And the Acorns Come Tumbling Down

Thanks to a blog I follow—New Hampshire Garden Solutions—I learned that this is probably a mast year for acorns. This is from a recent post: “There must be many millions of acorns falling this year; I would guess enough to call it a mast year. In a mast year the trees grow a bumper crop and produce much more fruit than in a non-mast year.”

The things I learn from reading blogs! I knew that some years there were a lot of acorns. Other years, not so much. But I didn’t know there was a name for a season that produced a bumper crop of acorns. But now I do. Many thanks, New Hampshire Garden Solutions.

As I have written previously, we live in the woods, and there are several oak trees near one end of our house. This fall there has been a steady rain of acorns, and when the acorns hit the roof, it sounds as though we are being pelted with little rocks. Sometimes the rain is steady enough that I worry I will be knocked senseless when I am near the oak trees. So far, so good. I’ve escaped concussion and have come inside with nary a bump.

Joking aside, I have come to regard the acorns as little wonders.

Beautiful as well as useful, they produce the majestic oak, thus providing a much-needed lesson about how mighty things can grow from a small seed. The acorns feed a variety of creatures who live in the woods around our house—chipmunks, squirrels, deer, and turkeys, to name a few. From the National Wildlife Federation Blog, I discovered that “more than 100 U.S. vertebrate species eat acorns. In autumn and winter, the acorn is the cheeseburger of the forest ecosystem—fairly easy to find and nicely packaged. They are one of the most valuable food resources available for wildlife.”

No wonder the oaks produce an abundance of acorns whenever they have a chance. If some acorns are to survive to grow into a tree, there must be many.

Therefore, as we head into the season of Thanksgiving, I give thanks to the oaks that provide shade, absorb carbon, and feed assorted denizens of the forest. Oaks are a vital part of Maine’s ecosystem, and how poor we would be without them. Long may oaks—and acorns—flourish.

 

 

 

 

August, Stay Awhile

The crickets have begun to sing. Their sweet trilling songs signal the arrival of late summer, a beautiful time in Maine. And this year, despite the climate crisis, August in Maine is everything it ought to be. The days are warm and dry. The nights are cool. We have a little rain now and then. Such a lovely, lovely month, and I wish I could stop it from speeding by. August, stay awhile. Don’t hurry on.

By August, the gardens are usually starting to look a little tattered, but this year they still look pretty good. Perhaps it’s because we had such a cool, rainy spring, and everything got a late start.

However, the slugs and snails have been nibbling on the hostas.

Still, they don’t look too bad. Sometimes by this time of year the hosta leaves look like green lace.

For the first time, I planted nasturtiums in the patio garden, and they are thriving. Actually, that’s putting it mildly. It looks as though the  nasturtiums are ready to engulf the patio, and woe to those sitting on that side of the table. Feed me, Seymour!

This week the first Black-eyed Susan opened, and there are many more to come.

As is noted on the Better Homes & Gardens website, “Since black-eyed Susan blooms when other summer perennials begin to fade, this plant is a true sign that fall is near.”  Even though I love fall, black-eyed Susans are another reason to cherish August.

Various daylilies are still blooming. While they don’t thrive in my shady yard, they do add welcome bursts of color.

This weekend, we will be going to two plays. We will be having a friend over for nibbles and tidbits.

We will hold August close and be outside as much as possible.