Dancing rays of sunlight frolic in the autumn woods and
across the pond creating a peaceful beauty that is breathtaking when coupled
with the deep stillness of the north woods. Scarlet sunrises have become
commonplace, illuminating the sky with a fire that speaks to the coming glory of
each new day. Slowly the sunrise ebbs into a burst of golden rays set gently
across a back drop of blue sky, green ridges, and a calm clear pond, cliff
laden mountain framed in its surface.
The leaves have fallen from the trees, and on cold mornings
when walking up the driveway and onto the trails leading into the woods
footsteps crunch as they step down on the half frozen ground. Squirrels sound
like elephants as they rummage under the beech leaves for a nut or other seeds,
quickly rushing back to their hidden nest. Repetitive, back and forth, they
carry out their chore with such exuberance and passionate outcries when
disturbed that I do have a new found appreciation for their vigilance and
diligent work ethic.
This is my favorite time of year. The woods have become
quiet, two legged visitors have gradually diminished. Early bird hunters and
leaf peepers traversing up and down the roads have departed, leaving only a few
souls hardy and determined enough to seek the challenge of searching for that
large White-tail deer hidden deep in the heart of the North Woods. The bucks here are wary, they are different, their patterns not as easily discernable as they may be in a small island of woods with houses and pastures nestled along its edge. As my grandfather used to say, if it weren’t for the rut, most would never shoot a buck. They are masters at disguise and they traverse up and down ridges, alongside swamps, and half way up the side of a ravine easily within a day. Most hunters are left panting and winded trying to trail them, if they do indeed possess the tracking skills to notice and differentiate the subtleties between the moose, bear, and coyotes that frequent the area. Does and young fawns are easily found, stepping alongside edges, browsing, weaving between the concealment of tree trunks and firs. Despite the challenge, the gifts that are bestowed upon the hunters here are varied. One hunter remarked on watching a coyote in hot pursuit of its quarry. Another hunter recently saw four bobcat traveling
together, others have seen bear, following behind the crisp tracks and scuffles
in the snow. I find myself tormented by Ruffed Grouse, dancing in the leaves in
groups of five to ten, or sitting in the branches budding in the cool morning
air. So much so, that my feathered friends are beginning to make me seriously debate the wisdom of just silently slipping past. Antlers are found, some chewed and green with algae, others are more interesting finds, like the twisted horn of a
local moose, or one side of what most likely is a twelve-point white tail buck.
I find this is a time to explore, old woods roads criss-cross the working forest making this a delight to walk in most areas, especially as the raspberries and brambles seem to have lost their prickly touch. The more areas I go, the deeper I lose myself to the wonder, some areas look reminiscent of the deep woods I may find on the coast, others like the jaw dropping ravine framed with a crystal clear waterfall and large hemlocks make me wish I could spend every day so immersed in the exploration of this forest.
The bogs around the pond are literally bursting with cranberries, we have become connoisseurs, my littlest likes the crunchy ones, my oldest prefers the squishing ones, me I like them both. Some are large and plump and round, others are smaller and as delicate as a wild blueberry, and others still are soft and pear shaped. Similar to wild strawberries the diversity seems reliant on the angle of the sun, the texture of the soil, and the amount of water that seeps through. We are enjoying finding and discovering them in the auburn colored bogs set beside the glittering blue water. The girls enjoy helping me make cranberry-pecan muffins, sour-cream cranberry coffee cake, cranberry-apple crisp, cranberry-apple pie, and the list goes on. We delight in nature’s bounty and use it to the fullest, relishing the rich goodness of a locally harvested food source to provide us with a little varietal twist to end the season.
Moose are roving, a week ago they had lined up the sides of the Spencer Bay road, bulls with cows in an explosion of activity. That seems to have dissipated, but they are still around, walking slowly on long legs between the tree trunks. The recent snow was short-lived but did allow for a couple days of tracking and snapping pictures of pointed firs, bushy pines, and white topped mountains and ridges draped in snow.
Sitting in the woods, the land comes alive as each minute creeps by. The soft stillness parts, and the chirps of chickadees, the buzz of siskins, and the catcalls and chatter of Blue Jays and Gorby birds sift down through the trees. Downy and hairy woodpeckers sail through the trees, landing and then hammering for a tasty snack. Little mice scurry over and under the edge of the leaves, and cream colored moths rise up and float through the leaves, filling the bottom two feet of the woods with a feathery sight reminiscent of soft wide snowflakes falling gently to the ground. As I sit and listen and watch, I often wonder why I do not do this in the summer or spring. I notice so much more in the fading sunlight of autumn. The ebbing sun drops down over the hills highlighting one side gently into a rosy glow, trees trunks are touched with silver light, and the opposite shore is painted in a straight line of shimmering gold, this is the feast our autumn harvest bestows.