Beauty, Mystery and Variety

My record-keeping isn’t as good as I’d like and so I don’t have proof that the leaves are late falling this year. But it sure seems like it! Of course, we all know it’s been much warmer than usual, with only two frosts to date. Oaks are always slow to colour and lose their leaves. And many small trees and shrubs are still completely green: think of all the introduced, non-natives such as lilac and apple. The large Sugar Maple in my front yard was a huge disappointment this year. Most years its flaming yellow leaves light up the yard; however this year the leaves simply browned and fell with only the stragglers showing a dull yellow.

In upper Medd’s Mountain Trail most leaves have fallen and the trail is a carpet of various browns. Walking there is a delight for the eyes and the nose. This trail is beautifully shaded by deciduous trees in the summer; when the leaves first fall the light this allows in makes a huge difference to your experience. If most trails are too wet to really enjoy a walk on, upper Medd’s which is very well drained is an excellent choice at any time of year but especially now.

The beavers have once again been busy around the millpond. A couple of aspen were felled in Medd’s Mountain Park, quite some distance from the pond. For some reason the beavers took nothing from these trees; usually they would be taking branches or whole trees back to near their lodge as a supply of winter food under the water where it remains unfrozen. One willow though on the west side of the pond was felled and the branches have been taken. Baxter Creek Trail is still closed from Medd’s Mountain to where it branches off to the Fairgrounds. I suppose this is where the beavers are taking their winter food supply.

Another oddity this fall concerns the birds. Birds often flock together as they prepare to make their long migration south. But this years flocks of grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds are especially noteworthy  because of their size and lateness. I suppose if it’s warm enough and there’s enough to eat the birds will adjust the timing of their departure. Many of our water birds often put off migrating until there is little water surface left unfrozen. Our Great Blue Herons are well known in this regard.

We fondly think of the natural world winding down activity and going to sleep for the winter. And this is indeed true; but we also know that sleep is more than a cessation of activity of mind and body. Both our bodies and minds do a lot of rebuilding during sleep. The seeds that fall to the ground are doing more than just waiting for the warmth of spring to initiate germination. Many seeds require a period of moist cold in order to spark them into life. Imagine if this were not the case and if all of those seeds had sprung to life in this long, warm fall. All of these would have then perished when winter finally came. Nature has safeguarded against such calamity. I have read that rather than a period when the seed is doing nothing but waiting, this is in reality a period of intense chemical change within the seed.

The days are drawing in but don’t let that stop you from getting out and experiencing nature in all its quiet beauty, mystery and variety. Get out! And enjoy!

GET OUT! by Glen Spurrell

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