Green Fades, Edges Yellow

September 13, 2021

Really warm in the sun, but the coolness seems to be emanating from the ground. Overnight the ground gets cool, and the sun is not strong enough at heating it up as it slants on its way. I walked out to the viewpoint, and the sky is vibrant blue. I note the slippery elm leaves that are close to the trailside beginning to yellow. That faint subtle yellow, or loss of green, has begun. This season, I note, is threaded with the finest silk of melancholy. The dying season yet still so full of bounty!

September 14, 2021

This morning I got out early and found myself on a trail called the Red Eft Loop. It was aptly named. Many red efts, of varying sizes and colors. I find myself wondering: are the tiny ones younger? Are the greener ones older? A new trail is always a delight, but I didn’t get to note too much, as I was busy watching out for the efts. If you stopped for a moment, the mosquitoes would move in. There was an anxious meditation in this walk, if that’s at all possible! I said to myself as I walked: I will not be sad when the cold kills all the insects. The bugs keep you moving, no time for meditation on a new-to-you caterpillar that you want to take a picture of. Or to visit with a large rock, an apparent glacial erratic, because whatever skin you have exposed will be an opportunity. I wear long pants, long sleeves, a hat, a bandana around my neck even, but they still find ways to get you. 

September 15, 2021

You can really feel the push-pull of the seasons today. There is a severe thunderstorm predicted for later on this evening, and the winds are preceding it. It is warm, and I am thankful for the wind as it sweeps through and brushes all the bugs away. When it stands still the mosquitoes and gnats move in and swarm you. They are desperate to cling to the damp warm humidity, and I’m sure they know their time is nearly over. 

The air quality is thick, and the temperature is best described as tepid. Not quite cool, but not too warm either; the wind is like a warm bath. Not uncomfortable but certainly not bracing. The leaves continue to yellow, and the the ferns continue to bow down lower. Asters and goldenrod bloom effusively. Sometimes a rich smell will emanate from the ground–that rich dying plant smell of autumn. I wonder why dying animals smell so horrible, yet dying plants are not quite so bad. The smell–it is leaf mold, mushroom rot, plant senescence–is actually pleasing to me, and I inhale it deeply.

September 16, 2021

Today is still and humid, though less bugs in general. The crickets and katydids chirps slowly, patiently, maybe knowing the season is coming to an end. Red efts on the trail today–I notice that when I come back on my return trip they have all gone. Though it’s still and quiet there are many sounds–like the dull thuds of acorns that randomly drop here and there.  

As I walk, I hear a barred owl hoot, and then suddenly another one answers it right above my head. I stop to see if I can spot it, but I don’t and the bugs begin to hover so I move on. They continue to banter back and forth. Lots of barred owls in these woods; over the summer I found a pile of feathers that I ended up identifying as a barred owl. Who eats an owl? Who cooks for you?

September 17, 2021

This day makes me feel uneasy. Is it the gray low clouds that hang above my head? Is it the still trees, the quiet plaintive croak of the crickets, the slick layer of dirt on the trail, the floating mosquitoes that cover you each time you bend down to inspect something? All day long I’ve been feeling itchy and somehow wrong, waiting for this weather to break, the stalemate of the changing seasons dragging on uncomfortably. The pond today at 6 p.m. is black and glassy. The water lilies that once were so buoyant are crowding the edges. Sunset is at 7:01.

September 18, 2021

There is still that strange force field I am feeling that is the liminal space between the seasons. I don’t think there is any other time of year where this change feels so charged, causes such uneasy friction. The sun is now out, at least, after a gray morning. The trail is slick with dew and condensation. Rocks that jut out of the ground are beaded with damp. The trail is thick and close. I notice acorns everywhere that are yellow and green, not brown. A lot of early drop? Also, black acorns–I read later that oaks will drop black acorns due to stress.

There are lots of fungi that I want to stop and spend time with examining, but I just can’t because of the bugs. You just can’t stop walking. Everyone is complaining about it, how the mosquitoes are unbearable. Also, this is not a normal September thing. I have a theory that bugs will be our northeastern disaster: non-native insects destroying our crops, explosions of mosquitoes, which could cause possible illnesses. I push these thoughts away, and dream of wearing a sweater in a cold wind.

September 19, 2021

The weather finally broke, and we woke up cool again. Up on the ridge top, I walked through the breeze, enjoying the relatively low level of mosquitoes. I noticed not one red eft as I walked. Have they all packed up for winter? Millipedes still abound–I don’t talk of them as much as efts, but I think about them a lot. They are sturdy soldiers of the forest floor. I could now stop to appreciate the fungi, but that’s when I noticed the mosquitoes and gnats are not completely gone. There are lots of yellow coral mushrooms, and they shoot out of the ground so sturdily. Honey mushrooms, and an abundant patch of aborted entolomas. Red russulas, of varying kinds, dotted my way, indiscriminately–hardwoods, conifers, it didn’t seem to matter. 

I was taken with the lowering volume of the ferns, mostly the hay-scented ferns that are abundant in this preserve. You can now see the ground through them, when in July, for example, there’s no way you can see through their density. You can see sunshine dappled on the floor below their stems. You can see through them if you bend down, through their vaguely yellowing fronds, that hold fallen yellow leaves from the black birches above, down to the red russulas below.