Musings of a Matriarch: The cycle continues as we welcome autumn

Sharon Kennedy

I was walking down the road the other morning and noticed the fields were full of vegetation going to seed. I thought about the seasonal cycle and how nature knows when it’s time to wrap up one season and prepare for the next. The fields and forests have no calendar or smartphone to alert them to the changes. They just do what they’ve been doing since the beginning of time.

While I walked, I heard geese honking as they flew south. Seeing them brought memories of my youth when the sky was dark with hundreds of honkers flying in their V-shaped formation. What a difference time and man has made in the natural flow of things. Now geese no longer fly together by the hundreds. They’ve learned it’s safer to fly in smaller skeins. There’s less chance of being shot.

There’s something wonderfully amazing about geese. When one stays behind due to illness or a bullet, another goose will stay by its side until it gets well or dies. Perhaps that’s why sometimes we see only one goose as it flies solitary in an attempt to catch up with the others. The instinct to remain faithful to the end is a rare quality in human beings, but it is deeply engrained in the mind of a goose.

The calendar on my desk tells me autumn is here. Without fanfare, one season slips quietly into the next, barely noticeable to folks who reside in climates with consistent weather. For those of us who live in the Upper Peninsula, we know Indian summer will soon pass. The warm days we’ve been experiencing will give way to cool breezes. Chickadees will reappear. Squirrels will search for winter shelter. Bears will seek out the last of the berries. Skunks will burrow underneath deserted buildings.

Like many of you, autumn is my favorite season. It’s a time to finish outdoor chores and can the last of the vegetables. Soon I’ll carry my white plastic chair back to the garage and shove the table closer to the trailer. I’ll cover the table with a blue tarp weighted down with large rocks to keep it in place when winter winds blow. I’ll sweep the porch with the broom I bought for my brother’s birthday and borrowed from him when I realized it was no better than the one he’s been using for years.

My tasks are small, insignificant chores to those who have major projects to finish before the snow falls. But like everything else they require attention. When I gaze out my kitchen window, I see leaves drifting from the maple tree I planted 10 years ago. I won’t rake them so wherever they land is where they’ll stay until picked up by a cool breeze. I see the bird bath begging to be cleaned and tree limbs asking when birdfeeders will hang from them.

I have news for the limbs. This year I will not fill feeders and watch squirrels ferret away food that belongs to the birds. Suet will replace seeds. I’m tired of finding seeds in every corner of my garage or underneath the glove box in my car. I’m tired of squirrels tearing insulation from the garage and dragging it into my cupboards then chewing the very shelves they’ve chosen for their winter lodging.

For years I’ve enjoyed watching the birds, but each year the crowd around the feeders has gotten smaller. Perhaps with only suet for their meal, the squirrels will feast in someone else’s yard and make their home in another’s garage. I hope so. Although I’m not averse to shooting a porcupine as it chews my porch steps, my aim is too poor to bring down a squirrel. I know some folks are horrified at the thought of shooting squirrels. I would be too, if I didn’t know how destructive they are. Lots of folks enjoy feeding peanuts to them and until I moved in here, I was anxious to fill their bellies with the same. Not any more.

As I write this, the late afternoon sun is filling my room with an orange glow as it filters through my drapes. The faux lace curtains leave patterns on my desk and the floor. I follow the shadow of spruce branches as they move across my room. The day is slowly coming to an end as the sun sinks lower in the sky, making room for the dark that is always there only hidden from our sight.

Autumn is a reflective time for me. Dad passed away in September of 1983, a month before my daughter was 1 year old. Death robbed her of a devoted grandpa. She missed rides on the tractor, helping him with minor chores, and putting the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle in place. He was given such a short time to love her and given no time at all to teach her about life on the farm when he was young.

And so it goes. One season melts into the other. Forgotten memories stir inside us. Change occurs, sometimes welcomed, sometimes dreaded. Either way, life goes on. Like a patient goose, we wait for a loved one to give us a nod indicating they’re ready to begin an endless journey or return home with us.

Autumn. The most beautiful time of the year.