Change Is in the Air

This morning dawned balmy, damp and oh, so bright across our garden!

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Brilliant autumn color finally appeared on our trees this past week, and we are loving this annual spectacle when trees appear as blazing torches in shades of yellow, gold, orange and scarlet.   We have been watching and waiting for this pleasure since the first scarlet leaves appeared on Virginia creeper vines and the rare Sumac in early September.  But summer’s living green cloaked our trees longer than ever before in our memories,  this fall.

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I remember a particularly beautiful autumn in the late 1980s, the year my daughter was born.  I went to the hospital in the second week of October to deliver, with the still summery trees barely showing a hint or shadow of their autumn finery.  When we drove back home with her a couple of days later, I was amazed at the transformation in the landscape.  The trees were bright and gorgeous, as if to celebrate her homecoming.

Once upon a time, I believed that first frost brought color to deciduous leaves.  Our first frost date here in zone 7 is October 15.  We haven’t always had a frost by then, but there is definitely a frosty chill in the evening air by late October here.

But not this year, or last….

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Bees remain busy in our garden, gathering nectar and pollen for the winter months ahead.

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The annual Begonias are still covered with blossoms in my parents’ garden, and our Begonia plants still sit outside in their pots, blooming with enthusiasm, waiting for us to decide to bring them back indoors.  Our days are still balmy and soft; our evenings barely drop below the 50s or 60s.  There is no frost in our forecast through Thanksgiving, at least.

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Our geraniums keep getting bigger and brighter in this gentle, fall weather.

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It is lovely, really.  We are taking pleasure in these days where we need neither heat nor air conditioning.  We are happily procrastinating on the fall round-up of tender potted plants, gleefully calculating how long we can let them remain in the garden and on the deck.  I’m still harvesting herbs and admiring flowers in our fall garden.

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Of course, there are two sides to every coin, as well as its rim.  You may be interested in a fascinating description of just how much our weather patterns have changed since 1980, published by the Associated Press just last week.  Its title, “Climate Change is Shrinking Winter in the US, Scientists Say,”  immediately makes me wonder why less winter is a bad thing.  I am not a fan of winter, personally.  Its saving grace is it lets me wear turtleneck sweaters and jeans nearly every day.

Just why is winter important, unless you are a fan of snowy sports?  Well, anyone who has grown apple, pear or peach trees knows that these trees need a certain number of “chilling hours,” below freezing, to set good fruit.

Certain insects also multiply out of control when there aren’t enough freezing days to reduce their population over winter.    Winter gives agricultural fields a chance to rest, knocks down weeds and helps clear the garden for a fresh beginning every spring.

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But there are other, more important benefits of winter, too.  Slowly melting snow and ice replenish our water tables in a way summer rains, which rapidly run off, never can.  Snow and ice reflect solar energy back into space.  Bodies of water tend to absorb the sun’s energy, further warming the climate.

Methane locked into permafrost is released into the warming atmosphere when permafrost thaws.  And too much warmth during the  winter months coaxes shrubs and perennials into growth too early.  Like our poor Hydrangeas last March, those leaves will freeze and die off on the occasional below-freezing night, often killing the entire shrub.

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By March 5, 2017, our Hydrangeas had leaves and our garden had awakened for spring.  Freezes later in the month killed some of the newer shrubs, and killed most of the flower buds on older ones.

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The article states, ” The trend of ever later first freezes appears to have started around 1980, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of data from 700 weather stations across the U.S. going back to 1895 compiled by Ken Kunkel, a meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

” The average first freeze over the last 10 years, from 2007 to 2016, is a week later than the average from 1971 to 1980, which is before Kunkel said the trend became noticeable.

“This year, about 40 percent of the Lower 48 states have had a freeze as of Oct. 23, compared to 65 percent in a normal year, according to Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private service Weather Underground.”

Not only has the first freeze of the season grown later and later with each passing year, but the last freeze of the season comes ever earlier.  According to Meteorologist Ken Kunkel, winter 2016 was a full two months shorter than normal in the Pacific Northwest.

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Coastal Oregon, in mid-October 2017, had seen no frost yet. We enjoyed time playing on the beach and visiting the Connie Hansen garden while I was there.  Very few leaves had begun to turn bright for fall, though many were already falling from the trees.

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I’ve noticed something similar with our daffodils and other spring flowers.  Because I photograph them obsessively each year, I have a good record of what should bloom when.  This past spring, the first daffodils opened around February 8 in our garden.  In 2015, we had a February snow, and the first daffodil didn’t begin to open until February 17.  In 2014, the first daffodils opened in our garden in the second week of March.  Most years, we never saw daffodils opening until early to mid- March.  We ran a little more than two weeks early on all of the spring flowers last spring, with roses in full bloom by mid-April.

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March 8, 2014

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Is this ‘shorter winter phenomena’ something we should care about?  What do you think?  Do you mind a shorter winter, an earlier spring?

As you’ve likely noticed, when we contemplate cause and effects, we rarely perceive all of the causes for something, or all of its effects.  Our planet is an intricate and complex system of interactions, striving to keep itself in balance.  We may simplistically celebrate the personal benefits we reap from a long, balmy fall like this one, without fully realizing its implications for our planet as a whole.

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February 9, 2017

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I’m guessing the folks in Ohio who had a tornado blow through their town this past weekend have an opinion.  Ordinarily, they would already be enjoying winter weather by now.

We are just beginning to feel the unusual weather patterns predicted decades ago to come along with a warming planet.  The seas are rising much faster than they were predicted to rise, and we are already seeing the extreme storms bringing catastrophic rain to communities all across our nation, and the world.  The economic losses are staggering, to say nothing of how peoples’ lives have been effected when they live in the path of these monster storms.

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Magnolia stellata blooming in late February, 2016

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Yes, change is in the air.  I’m not sure that there is anything any of us can do individually to change or ‘fix’ this unusual weather, but we certainly need to remain aware of what is happening, and have a plan for how to live with it.

My immediate plan is simple:  Plant more plants!  I reason that every plant we grow helps filter carbon and other pollutants from the air, trapping them in its leaves and stems.  Every little bit helps, right?  And if not, at least their roots are holding the soil on rainy days, and their beauty brings us joy.

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Newly planted Dianthus blooms in our autumn garden.

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Woodland Gnome 2017
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Another Peek: Autumn Sunset

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Colors in the sky,

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Colors spreading across once green leaves,

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And colors saturating the still waters of the pond.

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Drink it all in deeply; every glorious red and gold, green, orange, russet and blue.

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Soon enough November will close in around us. 
Bare branches will reach up towards heavy, white skies. 
Our gardens will fade to browns and greys.

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Celebrate color while we still can!

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Photos by Woodland Gnome, 2017

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For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Peek
 

Wednesday Vignette

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“Stop, breathe, look around
and embrace the miracle of each day,
the miracle of life.”
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Jeffrey A. White

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

 

Wednesday Vignettes: Walk in Beauty

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“To be creative means to be in love with life.

You can be creative only if you love life enough

that you want to enhance its beauty,

you want to bring a little more music to it,

a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.”

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Osho

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“Here is the world.

Beautiful and terrible things will happen.

Don’t be afraid.”

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Frederick Buechner

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“Life is full of beauty. Notice it.

Notice the bumble bee, the small child,

and the smiling faces.

Smell the rain, and feel the wind.

Live your life to the fullest potential,

and fight for your dreams.

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Ashley Smith

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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“Many eyes go through the meadow,

but few see the flowers in it.”
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Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

Changes

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We treasure these fragrant autumn roses, still opening in our garden.   Our ‘Indian Summer’ has begun its inevitable shift towards winter.  The trees here grow more vibrant with each passing day; scarlet, orange, gold and clear yellow leaves dance in the wind and ornament our windshields and drive.  Finally, autumn.

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We’re engaged in the long, slow minuet of change, sped along by storms and cold fronts sweeping across us from elsewhere.  It hit 80 here yesterday as I worked in our garden.  I planted the last of our stash of spring bulbs, and moved an Hydrangea shrub from its pot into good garden soil.  The sun shone brightly as butterflies danced among the Pineapple Sage and flower laden Lantana in the upper garden.

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We had a good, soaking rain over night, waking up to winds from the north and temperatures a good 25 degrees lower than yesterday’s high.  From here on, our nights will dip back into the 40’s again, and I worry about our tender plants.  When  to bring them in?

Last year I carried pots in, and then back out of the garage, for weeks as the temperatures danced up and down.  This year, I”m trying to have a bit more faith and patience, leaving those precious Begonias and ferns in place as long as possible.

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Most of our Caladiums are inside now, but not all.  I’ve left a few out in pots, and am amazed to see new leaves still opening.  Warm sunshine and fresh breezes day after day seem a reward well worth the slight risk of a sudden freeze.

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This is how ‘climate change’ looks in our garden.

We were well into December before our first freeze last year.  It was balmy on Christmas, way too warm to wear holiday sweaters.  One felt more like  having a Margarita  than hot cocoa.  But why complain when the roads are clear and the heat’s not running?

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And I expect more of the same in the weeks ahead.  Our  great ‘pot’ migration from garden to house is delayed a few weeks, with the Begonias and Bougainvillea blooming their hearts out in the garden, still.    The autumn Iris keep throwing up new flower stalks, the Lantana have grown to epic proportions, and the Basil and Rosemary remain covered in flowers.

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But the garden, flower filled as it may be, grows through a growing blanket of fallen leaves.  Heavy dew bejewels each petal and leaf at dawn.  Squirrels gather and chase and chatter as they prepare their nests for the cold coming.

And the roses….

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Their flowers concentrate the last bits of color and fragrance into every precious petal.  They’ve grown sweeter and darker as the nights grow more chilled.

I”m loathe to trim them, this late in the season, and so hips have begun to swell and soon will glow orange, a reminder both of what has passed, and what is yet to come…

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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Wordless Wednesday

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“Color is the melody of light.”
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Joyce Wycoff

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“Color directly influences the soul.

Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers,

the soul is the piano with many strings.

The artist is the hand that plays,

touching one key or another purposely,

to cause vibrations in the soul.”

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Wassily Kandinsky

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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“Red was ruby, green was fluorescent,

yellow was simply incandescent.

Color was life. Color was everything.


Color, you see, was the universal sign of magic.”

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Tahereh Mafi

 

 

 

Perspective

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“Preconceived theories are the misfortune of painting and painters. 

Nature is the most discerning guide,

if one completely submits oneself to it;

but when it disagrees with you all is finished. 

One cannot fight nature.”

 

Claude Monet

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“Color is my daylong obsession, joy, and torment.”

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Claude Monet

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“Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand,

as if it were necessary to understand,

when it is simply necessary to love.”

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Claude Monet

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“It’s on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way.

So we must dig and delve unceasingly.”

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Claude Monet

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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This series of photos was taken at a pullover along the Colonial Parkway near Colonial Williamsburg.  They reflect how our natural areas have already changed  in mid-September.  Even as the last of the fall perennials, like this native Goldenrod, come into bloom; our leaves are already dropping, and have been for several weeks now.  Many are fading and turning brown without showing bright color along the way. 

A period of unusually dry weather has turned our lush landscape of early summer to one showing the stress many plants are feeling. 

Still, there is beauty.  The golden sunlight of  early evening gilds  the trees as it falls lower in the sky.  As Monet observes, “One cannot fight nature.”

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WPC: Orange

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Orange does liven things up a bit.  Its warmth and energy feel like the perfect foil for the icy garden outside our windows.

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Just as orange juice brightens up a wintery morning, so a collection of orange photos might make us all feel a bit warmer as we close out this first full week of March.

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When I think of orange, I think of October.

Today’s collection of photos, all from October of 2014, take us back to butterflies and roses; leaves changing color on the trees and warm autumn sunsets.

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I hope you will soak up a little of their warmth as you enjoy this photographic retrospective.

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Inspired by the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Orange

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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Samhain

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The end of October also means the end of our Indian Summer.

Another sunny and warmish day here, a friend and I drove out to our favorite Homestead Garden Center this afternoon for pansies, panolas and soil.

With clearance in progress, ahead of the coming Christmas trees and wreathes, we also picked up some end of season ferns and perennials.

 

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We drove home contented, with the back of my auto filled to the brim with trays of plants and bags of good rich compost.

 

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Our conversation was interspersed with,”Look at that!” and ” Oh, how pretty!” our whole way out into the country, and back, as we enjoyed the beautiful trees along the way.

My partner has had an eye to the weather all day. 

 

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It seems we have a n’oreaster in store this weekend.

We don’t expect to see snow, but we’ll have wind and our first truly cool days and nights.  So often these windstorms strip the trees of their leaves just as the color hits its peak.

 

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So gentle October will blow away as two storms converge tomorrow over the East Coast, bringing  the first blast of winter to the eastern United States.

It snowed this morning in Chicago.  Snow on Halloween?  Really?

 

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This is the season of changes; endings and beginnings.

This is a good time to remember that the seeds of the new are always contained in the husk of the old.  Don’t you find that to be true in your own life?

 

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Samhain  is a transition time;  a time of remembrance.

I spent much of the day catching up with friends and meeting new neighbors.

A good way to mark this special day, I think.

 

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And this afternoon I finally dug up the last Begonia “Gryphon” from its spot on the deck, and brought it into the garage for winter.

I’ve been procrastinating, as you have probably guessed; but  finally have almost all of our Begonias indoors.

Those that remain outside are sheltered, and one especially huge pot just isn’t going to come in this year.  (Unless I can figure out a way to wrestle it from the deck into the garage before that first true freeze, that is.)

 

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Finally, I made chocolate spiders for the neighborhood Halloween party this evening.

It is a little late to be giving you the recipe now, I know;  but I’ll write it out so you have the idea for next year.

 

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We have been corralling real spiders in the house for the last few weeks.  It amazes me how they find their way inside.

But we keep a glass jar and an old greeting card handy to catch them and carry them back outside.

The chocolate variety (of spiders)  are big and delicious looking.  They might look especially frighteningly delicious  perched on a huge scoop of pumpkin ice cream.

Whether you celebrate Samhain, Halloween, The Day of the Dead, or even good old Guy Fawkes Day, I hope you have enjoyed it with those you love!

 

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

Chocolate Spiders

1.  Pour a bag of milk or semi-sweet chocolate bits into a glass bowl, and microwave on high for thirty seconds.  Stir.  Microwave and stir in fifteen second intervals until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  Stir the chocolate briskly with a rubber spatula for about two minutes to temper the chocolate.

2.  Line a baking pan with waxed or parchment paper.

3.  Stir about two cups of Asian Chow Mein noodles into the chocolate and stir to coat.  Add more noodles, as needed, until all of the chocolate is used.

4.  Lift small lumps of coated noodles using two forks, and place them on the parchment.  Each “spider” should be about a tablespoon of noodles and chocolate.  Flatten the pile slightly, and arrange the noodles so it looks like a spider with many legs.

5.  Use two M&Ms or other small round candies to make the eyes. 

6.  Place the tray of chocolate spiders in the freezer for ten minutes, or the refrigerator for thirty while the chocolate hardens. 

7.  Serve on a platter, bag the spiders individually in candy bags, or serve as a garnish on ice cream.

All that is left... the end of the batch.  These don't have quite as much chocolate as the ones we took to the neighborhood gathering.

All that is left… the end of the batch. These don’t have quite as much chocolate as the ones we took to the neighborhood gathering.  But you get the idea….

A Walk About

The Camellia in full bloom along my driveway, setting out for a walk about the nieghborhood.

The Camellia in full bloom along our own driveway, setting out for a walk about the neighborhood.

 

Last evening was the perfect everything for a walk about the neighborhood.

When I set out in late afternoon it was  clear and sunny; not too hot or too cold.

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All in all it was the perfect opportunity to get out and see the wider world beyond our own garden, and I had the time to enjoy it.

The roses beside our driveway have come into bloom again.

The roses beside our driveway have come into bloom again.

 

My first destination was the home of friends.  A friend and I were splitting a bag of daffodil bulbs, and I had a delivery to make.

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From there, I made my way down the quiet streets of our neighborhood towards the pond.  Families were out walking their dogs and spending time with children.

Looking across the pond, the homes are still mostly hidden by trees.

Looking across the pond, the homes are still mostly hidden by trees.

The light faded quickly in this late October sky, and I wanted to make it to the Creek before sunset.

Down another friends’ driveway one finds the dusty pine needle covered path across an earthen dam separating our pond from the creek.

The path is heavily wooded.

The path is heavily wooded.

Trees have grown here on both sides of the path, making it harder to see through to the water.  Birds and squirrels chatter at the intrusion into their private world.  I could hear the voices of children in the distance.  The homes ringing the pond are still mostly hidden behind the trees.

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It is nice to be able to walk back here again.  Many of us avoid this path once the weather warms each spring.  There are ticks and chiggers, mosquitoes and who knows what else in the heavy underbrush.

But by autumn, it isn’t quite so hazardous.  Or perhaps with long pants, hat and a jacket it just feels like a safer path to take!

I can see streaks of pink and purple gathering in the sky over the creek as I emerge through another driveway back to the city street.  I cut across past the playground, across the deck, and down towards the dock.  Darkness gathers, and I wonder whether these photos will turn out at all.

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With no street lights, and no flashlight,  it is best not to linger by the water for long.  There is the long climb ahead on the pathway home. 

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Turning my back to the sunset, I head out across the open field and into the shadows of the tree lined street.  Nothing I’m wearing is light or reflective.  It is way too dark here for photos, so my camera goes back into the relative safety of my jacket pocket.

It is a long steep climb.  The exercise feels good, and it reminds me to make this hike a bit more often.

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And not a single car passes on this leg of the journey.  No children’s voices sing out, no dogs bark, and no other walkers call greetings.

An occasional lighted window gives the only evidence of neighbors at home along the way.  Most are probably out for dinner on this Friday evening.

The glow of lamplight greets me as I near my own driveway once again.  My partner has turned on every outside light to greet me.

But even that pales in comparison to the sky, which has turned a fiery orangey pink in the space of only a few minutes.  I can see it again now, above my neighbor’s roof line as I turn towards home.  What beauty!

In another few weeks, once the leaves have fallen, the sky will open up to us once again at sunset.  For now we peek between the trees and above the neighbors’ roofs, basking in the reflected glow of it in the garden.

And I’m basking in the peace of it all.

I made it back home before dark settled completely across the community, knowing this should become a part of my routine during these gorgeous autumn days.

 

Robin challenged those of us who follow her blog to take a walk and post about it. 

This challenge is called “Walktober.”  Robin will gather up all of these posts, and publish links, so we can go along with one another to the interesting and beautiful places we have all visited. 

I hope you will follow the link back to Robin’s “Breezes at Dawn” blog to join her for her walk on Maryland’s Eastern Shore

Shortly, I’ll publish a link back to all of the “Walktober” posts so you can come along, too.

 

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

Walktober  by Eliza Waters

 

Wonderful Walktober Walks by Robin, Breezes at Dawn

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