Although I’d been waiting for it for a few weeks, fall snuck up on me this year.
I knew from the string of chilly mornings a while back that summer was in its final act, its curtain about to come down on another successful run — warmer and drier than I’d have preferred, but successful nevertheless. The sunrises have been coming later, so the cedar draws and faded bluffs across the river from my secluded home have shed their shadows later, too. At day’s end, the sun has fallen sooner each evening behind the massive elm tree that shades my west doorstep. All of the approaching autumn's signs were there, but then we had those warm, bright days — summer’s curtain call — and quit paying attention to the seasons.
Sunday after lunch, I went outside, just to sit and watch the calming ripples on the Missouri and to listen to the south wind sighing through the leaves in the trees that surround the house. On days like that, the soft, sustained sigh of the wind intermingles with the steady hum of trucks and cars crossing the Interstate 90 bridge a ways downstream as people hurry to deliver goods, to get from there to there, to be somewhere they aren’t.
Soothed by the breeze and the shade and the hum, I leaned back in the Adirondack chair and looked up into the leaves of the trees that shade the west side of the house. Good grief. Nearly all of those leaves in all of those trees above my head have turned yellow and gold and brown. When did that happen? Obviously, when I wasn’t looking, when the river and the cool shade and the light breeze had lulled me into feeling that fall, no matter the calendar, was still a long way off. It isn’t. It’s here, both officially now (my calendar says it happened Tuesday) and in terms of the physical changes the season will bring.
After I became aware of the turning leaves in the trees overhead, I looked around. I hadn’t been paying attention. Fallen leaves scattered across the step, the driveway, the dried grass of my poorly kept lawn. Most years, I have paid attention to falling leaves, since they always meant I’d be raking on weekends. In my current place, I have no neighbors to keep up with and no Better Homes and Gardens sort of lawn. I don’t spend much time raking. Still, I should have been aware that the leaves were beginning to shed their leaves. I guess I’m becoming indifferent to the looks of my yard in my mature years.
As I considered the carpet of leaves already covering my property, as I contemplated the multitudes more to come, I recalled that I’d noticed just a few days earlier that I could catch glimpses of the traffic on the city street that runs past the back of my place. Now, we live on a flat near the river bank. A city street, the westernmost in town, is the equivalent of a couple stories higher than our two-story(almost place. Through the summer, the trees on the hillside between my house and the street have been so thick with leaves I’ve been unable to see cars going by. In recent days the trees have dropped enough leaves that I can see cars and trucks. Before winter arrives, I’ll be able to see the traffic clearly, and those travelers will see my place equally well. That’s OK. It’s just cooler for an introvert like me to be hidden until I feel like driving up the hill to join the rest of the town.
Here’s another sign of the coming change of seasons I didn’t identify right away. A couple of times in the last few days, I’ve seen an eagle roosting briefly in the big tree at the riverbank near the driveway. As autumn moves along and winter sets in, the eagle and a few others will be here more regularly, hunting, feeding and resting.
I love having the eagles around. I love fall, too. In many ways it’s my favorite season. I just didn’t see it coming this year.