The geese fly south and the hummingbirds abandon the blooms of the scarlet sage. It’s time, according to their light-sensitive eyes, no matter North Texas had some record-breaking heat this November.
They were right, we remark, as the cool weather finally creeps in. Suddenly, it’s autumn. We notice when it gets chilly enough to start the heaters in the morning.
On a rare day when the temps are perfect and fireplace smoke wafts in the damp air, I remember living in a primitive place in the Ouachita Mountains. Burning wood for heat and opening windows for cooler air, I would celebrate those “just right” days when neither was required.
When it was almost cool enough for heating fires, I’d get in the mood to make bread. The cook stove warmed up our little house just the right amount.
We celebrated Thanksgivings in the mountain cabin with pumpkin pie baked in a wood-fired oven that added a touch of smoke aroma to everything, even store-bought dinner rolls.
Rain, which came often to the yellow-green forest, meant the leaves lost their crunch and the woods got quieter. Or perhaps it wasn’t quiet at all, simply different. In summer there was a constant ki-ki-ki of tiny creatures eating plants, crawling through leaves, dropping miniscule things from the canopy to the floor. That sound disappeared in the cool damp, as did the nightly serenade of tree frogs.
Autumn brought new sounds: wild turkeys gobbling, a mountain stream rushing with fresh water, coyotes setting up their frantic howl and the distant growling of a chainsaw getting the woodpile caught up for winter.
There would be new chores: lots of sweeping as the floor tracked with wet hickory leaves, wood to split, brush to burn, kindling to gather, winter clothing to unpack. I would need to cover tomato plants at night so the green fruit could finish maturing.
The oppressive heat was over and that was worth celebrating when we lived in a place with no fans and no air conditioners. We swapped tank tops for sweaters and got out heavy boots.
I would get excited about the new birds come to feed at our bounty: black-capped chickadees, purple finches and juncos. The phoebes, cardinals and titmice thought a continuous source of seed was a good reason to hang around and they were welcome.
The birds on my feeder bring me back from retrospection. I love walking down that memory lane. There are no regrets for having walked it and no desire to go back, except from the comfort of my centrally heated, all-electric home of the present. We still have birds in the city.