The air has changed. It has a crispness to it now. Sweatshirts are beginning to creep into the sun. The leaves are turning red, yellow, orange. Some are caught by the wind and littering the landscape in a kaleidoscope of color. Apples are big and bold on the branch, ripe for the picking. The back roads that lead to the orchards are clogged with city folk looking to take some apples, and a little bit of country air, home with them. Pumpkins sit upon the roadside on wagons or in bins waiting to be carved into Jack-o-lanterns. There might even be a pie baking somewhere, sprinkled with nutmeg and cinnamon. Cider, or hard cider depending on the nip in the air, fills the cooler and the fridge. Autumn has arrived.
I enjoy the Fall. The color, the coolness, the smell of woodsmoke in the air. Football season is in full swing, complete with cheese platters and snacks galore. Peeling apples in the cool afternoon, filling the house with the aroma of apple pies baking, of applesauce bubbling on the stove, and of plain old baked apples filled with butter and cinnamon cooling on the sill. The sun tries to chase the slight chill from the afternoon air and is kept at bay with a mouthful of ice cold cider. But apples are not the only fruit to shine. Recipes for pies made of pumpkins are being honed for the upcoming holidays. Other orange-skinned mammoths are being nurtured out in the patch to finish their growth into perfect carvers. The snaggled-tooth designs are already waiting in the minds of the kids for the day we cut the vines and bring the pumpkins to the house.
The opening of hunting seasons has come. There is small game and birds, archery deer, and the promise of fall turkey and bear yet to come. The deer have begun to don their winter coats. The turkeys are foraging heavy for the coming winter. And the bear travel far and wide while fattening themselves for the den. The woods seem alive and so do I as I move among the trees. There is much to look forward to, to dream about.
My head is filled with all these thoughts as the breeze brushes the curtains aside and forces me deeper under the covers. The steel grey of an October morning is fighting its way under my eyelids. And then I hear it, breaking the morning silence, cutting through the sleepy haze under the covers...a turkey yelp....and then another. A cluck here, a cut there, and then another yelp. What a glorious racket. I spring from the bed, quickly dress and run down the hall to wake my youngest daughter. She has been haunting me for the opportunity to go hunting and although it is Sunday, and hunting is not allowed, this is a great chance to get close to some wildlife. She jumps from her bed straight into her clothes and somehow has a turkey call in hand as if she had been sleeping with it.
We have barely made it off the porch when we spot the birds pilfering the last of the blueberries from the garden. The flock breaks up, some flying one way while others sprint the other. We arrive at the scene of the crime and begin talking turkey. Within five minutes a group of stragglers sneak by only 15 feet from our seats on a garden rock. They spot us and wander away and we reposition ourselves in the nook of a maple stump between the little group and the rest of the flock. The better part of the next hour is spent listening to turkeys answer my daughter's "practice calls" and waving to neighbors as they drive by with weird looks on their faces. I'm not sure if it was because it was Sunday or because turkey season doesn't open for another month, or because we were dressed in some combination of camo and pajamas, but their looks were strange.
The early morning's frost and the chilly breeze coming off the creek finally turned my daughter's hands into quivering little icicles. We brushed off our damp rear ends and headed back for the warmth of the house. A few steps into our journey and turkeys were busting all over the place. As we opened the door the smell of bacon and cornbread led us right to the table. My wife had already assembled a "hunter's" breakfast for us and our bellies would not be denied. There is something magical about the Fall, about sitting on a stump with your child in the chill morning air with the excitement of discovery thick in the air. There is magic in the beat of a turkey's wings and the yelp that cuts the wind. Magic is bacon and eggs and cornbread and applesauce and pumpkin pie. The falling leaves hide it sometimes but the trees hold the magic of the season. The magic escapes when you lift the lid on the carving pumpkin and fills the room, spooky cobwebs and all.
Do not waste the autumnal magic sitting in front of the computer screen. Power down, X out, and get outside. Fill your lungs with cool air. The woods are alive as are the farmers markets and roadside pumpkin stands. Enjoy it before the white stuff dumps from the heavens and new magic fills the day.