There are two places on our porch that are frequent parking places for my backside. The first one is the swing near the door on the end of the porch, where it wraps around the front corner and back along the north side of the house. The other is the edge of the porch near the center of the front of the house. The height there is a comfortable distance to the ground for my legs. The slope of the ground makes the north end a bit too short and the south end a bit too tall. Often, when I’m seated there, our little dog is laying at my feet. She would be largely an outside dog if she had the choice. She enjoys lying on the porch, but she likes the grass better.
The leaves aren’t turned here very much, yet. A touch of color can be seen on the tips of some branches, or the sunniest side of another. Some white oak leaves are simply turning brown and falling early. A few do that every year; I’m not sure why. The rest are still green and attached. There’s been a slight to moderate breeze for several days—“the winds of change” I guess you could call them. Other than the rustling of the leaves, things seem quieter in the outside world that they did a few weeks ago. My wife says the earth on this part of the globe is getting ready to go to sleep. She’s not far wrong, I guess.
My little dog lies there quietly, but her eyes, nose and ears are extremely busy, especially her nose. She sniffs, therefore she is. She finds the scents that come wafting to her on the breeze to be fascinating. To watch her sides, you’d think she was panting, but if you watch her nose, you notice that her mouth is closed and she’s pulling in short bursts of breathe. Try it and you’ll find that it works better for humans too, when you’re trying to sort or identify odors. All I smell is the scent of autumn, and I would have no idea how to describe it to someone who’s never experienced it. I’m sure SHE smells a whole lot more—perhaps even the horse that seemed to nicker from my back ridge when we were here yesterday. I assume the sound came from the farm of the neighbor behind me, though I’ve never heard horses there before.
Today, a couple nuthatches chatter as they look for bugs under the bark of nearby trees. I can tell that the dog hears them, but shows no interest. The clatter of black-birds in the distance grows louder, and they DO get her attention. She’s especially interested when they arrive at the tree closest the porch, after seeming to move from tree to tree. She gazes at the treetops with interest as they chatter and scold, looking for acorns or bugs. It’s been a lean year for the former; I don’t know about the latter. This flock, though noisy, is only a few dozen; I have seen flocks of hundreds, thousands, ten-of-thousands and probably even hundreds-of-thousands this time of year. I assume they’re beginning to gather for migration.
Four crows get a little rowdy across the road on the neighbor’s place. I think they’re the same pair and youngsters that I’ve been hearing (and now seeing) since spring. The search for food has an extra urgency this year. Spring rains kept the oaks from setting very many acorns this year, especially the white oaks. What few acorns are available are from the red oaks, more bitter, so less favored by wildlife. The little flock of Blue-jays that checked out the big white oak in the front yard seemed visibly upset that one of their favorite trees had nothing for them this year. A pair of wrens are sitting on my tractor now, carrying on as if it were nest-building time, but of course, it isn’t.
Amongst the brown oak leaves that lay on the ground before us are the still-green leaves of the small, misshapen linden in the side yard. I noticed that its leaves were beginning to fall the first morning after we had a 41 degree night. I guess you can tell it’s basically a southern tree; all you have to do is whisper the word “frost,” and its leaves are ready to give up the ghost. I need to cut it off this winter (along with the trees crowding it) and let it resprout, so it will be straight enough to resist wind-throw.
A couple evenings ago, about dark, we were sitting here in the swing and I heard what I thought were the neighbor’s cows. They sounded entirely too close to still be in their pasture. After listening a few minutes, though, I decided that wind direction and volume was making them sound that way. I recognized the sound of cows bawling for their calves, now probably being weaned in a nearby field or maybe even sold off already. Even animal mothers will wail for their lost babies. To those who’ve heard it and seen the frantic look in the eyes of those cattle, it’s a mournful sound.
My little dog eventually got up this evening and walked over to the door, to let me know that it was time to go inside. Her little bed and my wife awaited. © 2013-