I’ve always loved autumn, for its hues and fragrances. And the light — the only time New Jersey light approaches that which bathed me in my year (and other visits) in Provence, is when September unfurls.
However, this year, I’m not ready for it.
What with nights in the 60’s most of the summer, and a very challenging job at D&R Greenway Land Trust, with few vacation days, I am one of those inclined to blurt, “WHAT summer?”
So I wasn’t thrilled to waken to 40-some degrees on my front-door (Lawrenceville, NJ) thermometer this Sunday.
NJWILDBEAUTY readers know I’m always on nature quests, early and late, any season – you NAME it –, even in the middle of the week – scheduling every scarce day off for a jaunt to NJ’s WILD BEAUTY.
Even today, I’ve marinated ruby-rich tomatoes from Salem and Cumberland (assorted) farmstands. I’ve cooked my very first fresh sage-green limas from the pod, from Lillian’s fruits and vegetables next to the Mauricetown Diner on Buckshutem Road south of Millville. I’ve cut hand-sized peppers of red, green and variegated, into bite sizes for friends who are coming shortly for the last swim of the season. First we eat, then we swim, not like childhood. O, yes, and there’s merry berry pie from the hillside farm market in Lamberville (across the road from Rago and all that art…)
But out there, on the trails, after our swim this eveing, autumn awaits us. It’s not only a number on a plexiglas thermometer.
It’s assorted swirls of scarlet and crimson, twining up tree trunks near the red barn of the Pole Farm — announcing that autumn’s bounty is ready for the birds, in the form of woodbine and, yes, poison ivy berries. Poison ivy in particular really nourishes migrants on their interminable (often night-time) flights to other continents.
It’s buzzing and whirring and tingling of insects, getting their last songs in before frost.
It’s spiciness and fruitiness all along that entry trail. Spiciness as though it were Thanksgiving or Christmas, in the kitchen, nutmeg, and clove and other more exotic almost puncturing fragrances. Fruitiness among the varied vines so intense that it can knock me off my stride, and even feel intoxicating.
It’s meadows awash in brassy tones of tick-seed sunflower, leftover brown-eyed Susans, and first goldenrod, heavy on its stems.
Autumn, the poets insist, is that season “of mists and mellow fruitfulness” The latter is present along Pole Farm’s sunny trails. The mists I’ve, so far, only encountered once. I wonder what the function of mist is, to Mother Nature. For me, it’s enclosure, it’s wrapping, it’s transformation, and it hides any traces of hideous technology, such as some brutes are now attaching to poles along Cold Soil Road. Through the mists, I can see and sometimes hear the dark sheep. I do not see or hear the cattle lowing, but know they are near, off to the right, as I drive through morning fog, ground fog, to save New Jersey Land at D&R Greenway.
Autumn is the end of the plants in my tiny new garden. I’m down to three nasturtiums and four white petunias and one geranium — blooms, not plants. The basil has come and nearly gone, although its final leaves adorn those Salem and Cumberland Tomatoes from the stand where you put your money in a locked tin container and drive away without having spoken to anyone.
Autumn used to be school, which I loved, oddly enough.
Frankly, I don’t know what autumn is any more.
I think the trails, in Island Beach on Tuesday, and at Pole Farm any day, hold my answers.
I’ll keep you posted.
Smiles, and SAVE THIS PLANET! in all seasons