Wow. Fall is here. It’s actually been creeping in for about two weeks now. Crazy I know. It’s about two to three weeks early. We usually don’t see the leaves start turning until after Labor Day. But on my drives to work in late August I started to see little patches of yellow among the tops of the aspen trees. Just here and there that if you weren’t paying attention you might miss. Or catch out of the corner of your eye and then think those same eyes were playing tricks on your old mind. Because how could the leaves be turning in August???? That just doesn’t make any sense.
But alas, the rest of the trees are marching along in lockstep. The bushes and shrubs as well so that the hillsides are now dotted yellow. The nights are cold…I must remember to bring in my flowers every night. The hanging baskets are left to fend for themselves. I drew the line at dragging the ladder over every night and every morning. And that’s the big ladder, not my little mom step ladder thingy. Too much trouble, though it breaks my heart to think of those gorgeous pink petunias and the fiery orange marigolds freezing their tiny leaves each night. Survival of the fittest? The circle of life? Ahhh, yes that’s it. The circle of life. We witness that so intensely here in our little mountainside home.
Fall is in the air. The days are cooler as well. The wind has shifted. Though to be honest, that happens every year the day after the 4th of July. No kidding. It truly does change on the 5th–it feels different and smells different. As if it’s telling me to savor each day left in July and then August and to pack in as many summer events as possible. To store them up as memories in my mind to revisit on those cold, icy winter days. Our summers here are fleeting. They come in very late, they stay for just a while and then, just like that, they’re gone again, leaving broken hearts in their wake. I long for summer to arrive. Usually in March or April when the ground is muddy and the snow is crusty, not fun anymore for things like snowshoeing or cross country skiing. Summer makes its slow march to our little hillside, and then all of a sudden its here. If you blink you may miss it.
That’s what happened this year. I blinked. And now it’s gone. Oh, we still have sunshine and warm days. But they are shorter and the sun is at a different angle. And then there’s that whole bringing in the flowers, taking out the flowers, bringing in the flowers, taking out…well, you see where I’m going with that, right?
And the hummingbirds are gone. My dear little friends who welcomed us so wonderfully when Gracelyn and I finally arrived two years ago. I have a book of Native American beliefs that different animals mean different things. The Hummingbird signals Joy. For me that is truly ironic (and substance for another longer post on a day when I have more time). Suffice it to say that true joy was foreign to me for a long time. When Gracelyn and I first arrived, we were greeted by a horde of hungry hummingbirds, darting and zinging all around us. So happy to see us that as I took the feeder outside, I had barely stepped out the door, they were already feeding. While I held it in my hands! They’ve continued to do that each year and I sometimes spend what seems like hours just standing at the feeder, letting them buzz all around, occasionally sitting on my finger as they drink. It’s a heady feeling and I suppose that is what “JOY” feels like. But now they are gone. Save for one lone, little bird. There were two just two days ago. But now I see only one. I’ve left the feeders out. His preference (I say he, but honestly I have no way of sexing a hummingbird, despite my years of rigorous training at the esteemed Texas A & M, gig ’em!), is the feeder outside the kitchen window. So as I was making my coffee this morning, he came to drink. We looked at each other through the window (again, I have no way of knowing if he was looking at me or his reflection in the window, but for literary purposes it sounds better the first way) and for a moment, I thought anyway, there passed a kindred feeling of bittersweet longing for the summer. Hot, long days with the sun overhead, not angling low in the sky as it is now. When he had a multitude of friends zinging and zooming all around. I’ll leave the feeders up for him a bit longer, in case he’s decided for some reason not to make the trip south this year. Others have told me I need to take them in, to force the birds to fly south. Whatever. They’re there if he needs them. Perhaps this is his last summer as a hummingbird here on earth. If so, I’ll help him out. Wow, the melancholy is on me this morning. I do apologize. Here is my little friend:
It did creep up on me I will admit. But part of that is due to the extreme dry conditions here. Our grass has been brownish yellow and crunchy for weeks, well months really now. I think it was green in early June. The hillsides are a drab brown as well, made green (if you can call it that) in places where the sagebrush is. The rabbit sage has bloomed with bright yellow flowers, adding some color to the palette. The wildflowers were practically nonexistent and if they did show themselves, they didn’t stay at the party long.
Which brings us back to the trees. Some of the leaves are gaining the spectacular colors they usually do–the bright oranges and deep reds, the usual golds of the quaking aspens. But there are several which have a brownish, dry tint, dulling the change of color just a bit. I can sometimes survive the transition to fall by simply being overwhelmed by nature’s artistic display. I can be lulled into a sense of acceptance at the passing of time by witnessing miraculous palettes of color on the hillsides. I walk begrudgingly forward into the season by oohing and aahing at the scenes before me. But not this year I’m afraid. There was some oohing and aahing on our drive to Laramie for Gracelyn’s soccer game on Thursday, but it seemed less than what is usual.
The dear husband says I do this every year–get sad about the passing of summer. He may be right. (Do NOT tell him I wrote that.) He occasionally is. (Alright, you can tell him that.) But seriously, every year he said. This year he has been exceptionally sweet about it. When I found out his parents were leaving the next morning, at the end of August after they’re annual late summer trip, I sobbed in his arms. Yes, I love my inlaws. But it was much more than that. It was the beginning of the end. Their leaving signaled the end of our fun summer. And yes, he held me and was quite kind and didn’t say “you always do this.” He actually didn’t say a word. Perhaps he felt it too.