October has arrived and with it the signs and stirrings of change. The one wild apple tree in the woods behind our house has dropped the remains of fruit that was feasted upon but not finished this past month by dueling groups of blue jays and woodpeckers.
On the ground the wine-like scent of the apples has mixed with the faint smell of some stubbornly late blackberries that escape being tasted because of their thorny inaccessibility. Blended into this fragrance is the odor of moss that was recently damped by two days of rain and that dusty smell that fallen leaves and maple seeds emit when their numbers are gathered on the tines of a rake.
I have lived at the edge of this woods long enough that I can stand beneath its trees in early October and with my eyes shut tell what month it is by the scent of its autumn cologne.
Down the street a yellow bus has been arriving for a month to pick up the now seasoned school-aged children that live in our neighborhood. The last of the many older children that we watched grow along the street over many years have driven off to their own futures, several to college, several to jobs, and recently we heard of a baby shower planned for a young woman who used to hang May Day baskets on our door, before ringing the bell and quickly running away. She’s an accountant now and when I last saw her she was anxiously counting days.
There are several babies of course, and the young children of parents new to the neighborhood, the new parents living in the houses of our peers who have moved away because their houses became “too big” after their children were grown or they tired of yard-work and up-keep.
We are hold-outs here on the hill, reluctant to give in, to let go of the odor of the woods and the sights that evoke the memories that have collected within us, too tied to the trees and vines we once planted, the flagstones and bricks we carried up the steep grade to give us places to sit with our children, our grand-children and friends. And we are too full of the anticipation of seeing the geese migrating one more time, the geese who gather and circle – for some reason unknown to us – by the hundreds in the fall just over our house before leaving our neighborhood themselves.
The air is cooling and the breezes have started to arrive with the same insistence as the mailings of, holiday laden catalogs and winter class schedules from the community college. As a musical background to this shift in the season and the lengthening nights, the crickets have picked up the tempo of their echoed conversations and their melody has been joined by the B-flat notes of a pair of owls who have returned to our woods each fall for the last several years.
Signs and scents and feelings of transition abound in October and while I cling to the last of the seductions and activities of summer I find my eyes excitedly searching for the shifts in the color in the landscape, the shifts that I know always will come and beckon us to stay where we are. We are hold-outs here on the hill still guarding the signs. The geese gathering uniquely over-head assure us one more time. This year the doorbell will be rung by the fingers of the new children who live nearby coming dressed in costumes and eager to meet the older couple who live on this hill. The chrysanthemums we brought home from a trip with a friend whose smile we remember are beginning to bloom one more year……..the seasons and faces change and come to this house we once built , this house with its woods and creek that stir together an ancient but familiar fragrance…….The hill has become steeper, the climb longer and the tasks heavier every year but our souls continue to watch for and are assured and comforted by the signs.