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Every season, it seems, has its standout event. Last winter, of course, refused to end, and then spring morphed into summer so quickly hardly anyone noticed. The “highlight” of summer was the impossible number of hornets, yellow jackets and assorted other mad bugs that made doing anything in the way of yard work nearly impossible. I was stung more times this year than I had been in the 10 years previous. Hornets were in the wood pile, in the grass, in the brush, in the garden – I just couldn’t get away from them and from what I hear many others had the same dilemma. Now that the hornets are gone one has to wonder what’s next. Certainly it can’t be worse!
One aspect of fall that seems unusual this year is the incredible crop of acorns we’ve had. Every species of oak seems to be loaded with nuts this year and they’ve been raining down on us for a month. Some trees seem to drop their acorns one at a time, while others lose them in handfuls. While hunting the other day I set up for some tea under a huge black oak which, I quickly discovered, was not a good idea. Deer, turkeys, squirrels and a host of song birds and other wildlife love black oak acorns but at least they are smart enough to wait till the tree has shed its load. I had found a nice spot on a stone wall that was probably built 200 years before this huge oak was dropped as an acorn, but now the tree is part of the wall. In the process of squirming up through the piles of stones it moved them around enough to create a nifty little table and chair that, over 100 years later, I set my stove and tin cup on for a pleasant woodland break.
Acorns the size of quarters thumped down to the ground every few seconds, some bouncing off the higher limbs and others ricocheting off the stones in the wall. I had a feeling I was going to be hit (which has happened before and believe me, those black oak acorns hurt when they drop from 75 feet in the air), but the acorns had better ideas. Just as my tea water began to boil a pair of acorns dropped dead center into the cup, splashing water all over my pack, knocking the stove over and sending the tin cup clattering down the side of the wall. Nice!
I moved 50 feet away to a much less comfortable spot but at least I was out of range of the acorns, which continued to fall till I finally packed up and moved on.
In my travels through the woods I found dozens of oak trees with the ground around them littered with acorns. Some had piles of acorn husks left behind by foraging squirrels, and many were crushed and cracked here and there around the base of the tree, suggesting that deer, raccoons or even a fox or coyote had stopped by for a snack.
I noticed that blue jays and chickadees were also busy in the treetops, but I have a hard time imagining a jay, no less a chickadee, being able to swallow an acorn the size of a strawberry. I suppose they peck and pick at the shells until they can get at the meaty inside, but most of the action takes place at the top of the tree and is difficult to see.
Other than the sudden peaking of the foliage colors and a dramatic loss in leaves that have already fallen this seems like a normal fall. Apples and pumpkins seem to have showed up right on time and the geese are gathering for their trip south. Overall, however, it all seems to be coming together too early and too quickly considering how short the spring and summer had been. Getting old? Time passing more quickly? Global warming? Magnetic field shifting? Who knows for sure!
All this early and sudden activity merely makes me want to spend more time in its midst. These October dawns and sunsets are incredibly bright, clear and crisp, invigorating and inspiring. These are the days when I don’t mind staying outdoors all day catching up with last-minute pre-winter chores; mowing, mulching, getting the wood in, painting and staining, patching and storing . . . there’s plenty to do and for now it’s a pleasure to be doing it outdoors. For example, washing windows is not very high on my list of to-do projects, but I enjoy doing it on a fall day when the sparkling clean windows reveal a bright, clear blue sky and reflect the colorful foliage all around; which then inspires me to grab my pack and head for the woods because everywhere I go “out there” looks and feels even better in October.
It’s a small window of opportunity, of course, but now is the time to enjoy that final canoe or kayak trip, do a little late-season fishing or head into the thickets for some bird or deer hunting. Or, try paddling down a river or stream and see how many ducks you can flush. If nothing else, load a pack with some snacks and water and just strike off into the hinterlands, looking for nothing in particular but noticing everything that happens. It’s time to participate, make memories and absorb the October ambience while enjoying some of the best weather Maine has to offer. It’s cool, there’s no humidity, the air is clear and there are no bugs.
I’ve been all over the world in fall but nothing beats being in Maine in October. We’re smack in the middle of the best time of year so do what you must in order to take advantage of it. The Season of Enthusiasm lasts but a short time and we won’t have this kind of invigorating weather again till next April . . . or May, if things go as they did in 2014. Six months is a long time to sit idly wishing for balmier times!
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