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It was not so much the transition from September to October that changed things as the heavy down pour from the remnants of a tropical storm. Branches and trees were downed. The farm road washed out along the sides. Grasses matted down. And yet with all of that, it had only been enough rain to set the second stream running. The ground had drunk up the water so that it was left moist and not even muddy.

The swallow tails and monarchs had gone, though I found one butterfly and one moth I’d not yet captured. I decided to try for birds. The leaves were still too thick and birds know when they’re being watched. It will take time to figure out how to pretend to not watch while watching and to bring the camera to focus at the same time.

Woodpeckers will be a challenge. Both the Downey and the Red Shouldered were there. I could hear them more often than see them but see them I did. Photograph them? No. The woodpeckers seemed especially skittish about being watched.

While it was a perfectly beautiful day, sunny and cool, I wasn’t perfectly with the day. My mood was more like the storm that had blown through—dark, damp, roiling mass. I wonder if I’ll even bother to get through the whole year of “A Year in My Woods.” I take myself for a quitter, wonder why I even bother to goad myself into pursuing goals. Wonder why I just don’t let it all go. For years, I’ve pictured myself just locking the door to my house and walking away. I don’t. I tell myself that I’m staying because my Dad is still alive and as long as he is, I need to be around. Truth is, I just don’t have the guts.

There are a half-dozen goals on my idea wall and I will probably never finish any of them or even start them properly. My document file is full of parts of books–this being one, Dad’s stories another, my travels, a third.  And now I’m playing with photography. Part of my brain will always be asking, “What are you going to do with all this?” The other part is asking,” Why can’t I do it just to do it?” And in the meantime, my skin feels too small, as if it were time to shed it and grow new.

10/7 and 10/8

The turning has begun. Green is seeping from the leaves leaving them a duller shade of green but not yet gone to other colors. Those will follow. Scattered patches of red and yellow appear at the same time as the rain restored freshness to the green on the ground. Grasses are clear and green; ferns have perked up.

Turning for the wildlife has begun as well. The butterflies remaining are the yellows and white and the remarkably common, Common Buckeye.

These two walks seemed unsatisfying. One cut short by appointments the other by a mood—a mood which caused me to abandon my woods on the 9th and 10th. My need for something newer, bigger, wilder took me to Jacobsburg State Park on Saturday. There I wandered about forests and fields delighted to be somewhere different, out of the rut, more challenged. The weather could not have been more perfect for this adventure nor the Bushkill Creek more beautiful, nor the fall more delicate.

On Sunday the perfect weather continued and I spent an afternoon in misdirection and false starts. First, an accident blocked 100 North and sent me back to 401 to get around it. Then 345 North was closed with a bridge out sending the French Creek bound down Harmonyville Rd to the park. A look at the park map sent me to Turtle Trail, one I’d not hiked before.

Turtle Trail is the white trail. In a silly coincidence, a mountain biking event used white to mark their course trail. It was a good mile before I realize I was following a false trail and had to double back. Through all of it though, it was a good walk and a beautiful afternoon. 5 or more miles was about right for exercise though more than the 3.5 Turtle Trail promised.

Chipmunks were the photo challenge of the day and the dozen I took would yield one so so picture. The critters kept themselves too far in the shadows. Hopewell Lake was in its glory and sometimes it is just too easy to get a perfect shot.

10/11/10

Autumn has not yet arrived in her glory. She is, as a matter of fact, looking a bit dowdy in dull, dark green and muddy brown. The dry summer was not kind to her and will leave even her finale a bit less spectacular than usual. Bits of bright red jump out for their very rarity, though they will be more common soon.

Today I got my first shot of a deer. Not a good one mind you, just the first one. During the fall when they and I align our timing, I’ll be able to get more shots. The deer will feed earlier as fall steals the daylight. Rut will begin. It’s time to start driving more carefully during rush hour. Today on my way home from the woods I was startled to see a dead deer at our entrance. While I had watched what I refer to as the turnpike herd for some years, but this is the first I’d seen one venture up this far—a venture that clearly did not end well.

10/18/10

Clouds and damp made the woods seem more intimate. The colors felt warm against the grey sky; the yellow leaves were a false sun. As I walked and planned a weekend in another woods, I felt disloyal. Once again, I was planning to abandon my woods for another and reassured myself that I would return in winter when it was difficult to go much further. Although the decision is not final, Gifford Pinchot Park may be my Saturday destination. I’ll be in Mechanicsburg anyway, so why not?

Why not indeed? Truly it didn’t hinge on geography, well, perhaps geography of the heart. There was simply no reason I needed to be home; no one is ever there to expect me. No date emerged for a Saturday night. And so, feeling like old produce, as they say in the Middle East, I simply decided not to go home to the no one who would be there.

I noticed again the scarcity of mushrooms. While I blame the dry season, I wonder if I’d simply mistaken when I’d seen them last year. Fall seems right though it may not have been so. There are no lurid orange Jack O Lanterns nor Russalka, which seem moldy, nor last year’s chanterelles. What rain we have had resurrected the Turkey Tails and little else.

Camera not at ready, a small four point buck and I had a brief encounter. He was gone before I could bring him into frame. The long grasses along the pipeline had been mowed, so the butterflies are gone—those grasses having been their feast.

10/24/10

Colors are midway toward their peak, awaiting the grand finale when they flame out in a last moment of defiance before dying. Today they were enjoyed by walkers lured out of the house by Indian Summer. I expect I will miss the finale as I will be leaving for Kuwait on the 30th and be gone for a week.

While today was warm and inviting, I took only a short walk being tired and sore from Saturday’s hike around the lake at Gifford Pinchot Park. The first 6 or 7 miles were grand but I lost the trail in the campground. Walking on pavement and adding an extra mile or so were just enough strain. Shortly after regaining the trail with the help and company of a group of women walkers, I stepped wrong and my left knee shot through with pain.

With no option but to continue on, I wrapped my knee with an elastic bandage I carry and continued walking, albeit at a slow pace. Those last several miles were at best a dull ache and at worst eye watering stabs of pain. It was important that I do no more damage—a left knee is a necessary item when driving a car with a manual transmission. I completed the hike and was proud of myself for the accomplishment.

So, today was merely an exercise in stretching out to avoid locking up. A mere stroll has its merits—a new butterfly to identify, the flicker I could see but not capture in a photo, blue tinted mushrooms and a hawk flying overhead. Looking, seeing, sensing that thing which has been there just out of eye sight. It’s cliché to say there is always something new and yet, there is simply such abundance that it takes time to sift through to the single things. There was the tiny, new maple tree gone fall red. There were mushrooms inside the tree stump that had not been there before. There was the small bird I saw well enough to look up later.

It is a gift to truly see.

10/28/10

Fall in its glory is bittersweet. This perfect, warm, late fall day is a triumph of gold against a bright blue sky. That is the sweet. The bitter is that I shall miss the coming best week of fall. When I return from Kuwait, the leaves will be mostly fallen and the daylight gone to the change of the clock. This I mourn more than anything. Early sunsets bring the urge to gorge then hibernate. While I make every effort to walk in the daylight, I go sad anyway. While I soaked in this day, this warmth, this sun, this gold, it was with the sad farewell to October and resignation in accepting November.

The colors today were not quite perfect for me to recreate a shot I had taken a year or two ago with my cell phone. The trees encircling the old farm house were not yet their golden peak, although the maple fronting the lane was glowing yellow.

The woods were more quiet though. It had rained and the soggy leaves had lost their crunch.  At the far side, but not at the end, I suddenly felt ill and decided to turn around. It was probably no more than too much effort on too little breakfast. Although, it could also have been the weight of sadness—difficult to tell.

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