The story below is an excerpt from our September/October 2016 issue. For the rest of this story and more like it subscribe today, log in to read our digital edition or download our FREE iOS app. Thank you!
We feel what the Japanese call "aware"-an almost untranslatable word meaning something like "Beauty tinged with sadness." -Gretel Ehrlich
Even though I am sad that summer is shutting down, it is hard to stay glum when my valley is so riotously beautiful. The apple trees are swaybacked with their loads of fat fruit, the pumpkins glow from the patch and the dry cornstalks rustle lullabies to the wind.
Fall is time for cutting things down, raking things up and putting things away. The patio furniture must be wiped down and stored for next spring. The croquet set must be rolled back to the shed. The walnuts have to be gathered so I can mow grass one last time. I saved some walnuts last year, carefully removing the hulls and storing them in our root cellar. All winter and spring, I meant to get them out, crack them open and bake a black walnut cake, but I never got around to it. My mother always told me that my eyes were bigger than my tummy.
I can’t help myself. Autumn makes me want to gather the harvest. There’s a bit of the worker bee in me and I’m often unsettled in fall until the last apple is picked, the last grape is canned, the last pumpkin is plucked. My root cellar burgeons and it’s so pretty that I once wrote a poem about it:
There’s beauty outside the cellar as well. Yesterday, as I stood at the kitchen sink washing dishes, I noticed movement in my fading coneflowers. The winter-grayed goldfinches were flicking from frond to stem, probing for the tiny seeds hidden in the coney depths.
Meanwhile out in my garden, the sunflower heads droop, heavy with seeds, and the cardinals have discovered them. There were three out there this morning, ruby against the gold mist, having breakfast. And, I know that in a week or two, my dogwood tree, which is loaded with red berries, will be visited by a flock of blackbirds who will stop for sustenance on their way out of town. It happens every year.
So, as the trees catch fire with autumn’s light, don’t forget to look to your own gardens for beauty. Leave the dead and dying things until the last birds have headed south. You’ll be rewarded for your skilled neglect with thankful birds singing about the blessings of the harvest.
Other great plants for “birdscaping” include hollies, crabapples, chokeberries, winterberries, beautybush and roses. If you have some of these in your yard, be sure to watch for your feathered friends who will fly in for a feast. While the distant trees flaming against the purple mountains are breathtaking, don’t forget, sometimes the most beautiful things are in our own backyards.