The retreat of the fall woods

The sun hung low in the Western sky, the reeds stood tall, dry but still wavered in the cool fall breeze that slowly travels across the lake. He stood facing the breeze; it stung his cheeks and chilled his lips. He closed his eyes and felt the warmth of the sun caress his face.

The forest was bare, the leaves had all fallen and all of the color has faded to a dull gray. Only the sun now providing highlights in hews of amber as it reached out, stretching through the cold, stiff branches of the poplar deep into the woods.

Somewhere out on the distant forests floor critters scurry across the dried, crisp foliage, collecting seeds and then burying them, saving them for those long dark winter months when food will be scarce.

As the shadows began to grow longer he continued along a path that seemed to have no agenda. When he cleared the trees, stepping onto an open field he spotted a large doe picking at the only sweet grass left, her gray coat shimmered in the last of the sun’s rays. He continued on until he’d come upon the side of a small hill that skirted the prairie. He lay down upon the decaying leaves; there he was out of the wind. Looking skyward he saw smaller branches moving in the breeze, but he felt no breeze where he lay.

Then high above him and the barren trees there soared a pair of American Bald Eagles circling slowly, silently, riding the warmer updrafts of air until they finally drifted off into the distance.

It’s not so sad he thought, this time of year after the flowers all die off and the green grass begins its long hibernation period along with many woodland animals. When all the leaves fall to the cold, hard ground and the frost covered reeds along the shoreline dangle, just above the thin layer of ice floating at the water’s edge.

There is something very honest about the woods this time of year, naked and bare to the world, hiding nothing from sight, open, vulnerable. And as the lake begins to freeze over, the weight of the ice forces the frigid lake water into the surrounding marsh. It runs fast, pouring over the tall grass and cattails blown over by the new winter winds. Though the water is hidden there it can be heard, trickling, gurgling, and forming icy sheaths around the red trunks of Sumac.

Eventually the sun sinks hurriedly beyond the horizon and the geese call out as they ascend from the surface of the still, frozen lake, he continues on, making his way back to the lodge as a blanket of darkness falls over the sleepy forest. The shadows melt away and the golden light turns to a dim, dusty gray as the day hands over the wood to the cover of night.

 

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