We are in mid-October already and the days are still fairly warm this year. The wind and the rain have blown some of the leaves, and they fall, fall to the ground, even cover the grass already in some places. I guess that is why it is called fall here. The paintbrush of frost has not yet touched most of the leaves. The brilliant reds, oranges and yellows have yet to grace the trees of our neighborhood and nearby park as in other years at this time.
On our walk in the park by the river the other day, I photographed the beginnings of the season’s colors, but may not experience the entire show this year. It is time to migrate before winter comes. Like the birds, we are headed to warmer climes. Like the birds, and thanks to modern technology, we spread our wings and fly. To avoid the cold and the snow. We are snow birds, but we travel way further than most.
When I think back to the time when we did not have wings yet, I remember the masses of leaves covering the lawns. There was a huge maple tree on the property next door, and it was a beautiful sight when it turned all colors. When the leaves started to fall, we had to rake them weekly, and the children were so happy to jump into the leaf pile practically every weekend until the tree was bare for the winter. Those next-door neighbors are long gone, so are the children, most of whom have their own grown children by now, and live far away. Almost all other neighbors, colleagues from the university nearby, and old-time families who lived here before we came, and became our friends, are no longer here. The street has been taken over by university students who rent spaces in the old homes. Instead of sounds of children playing we have blasting music and drunken parties, especially at the beginning of the school year before the students settle down to study.
The next-door house no longer has the large maple tree. It was cut down by the city after a storm broke large branches and it was dangerous to leave it standing. Young new trees were planted on lawns, and even they are now fairly big, but they are no longer the ones that give glorious color to the neighborhood. Some things, though, do not change. The squirrels still run around eating all the pears on our trees, not leaving any for us. At this time of year, they gather all the walnuts from the large tree at the back corner of our backyards, and hide them in my flowerpots on the patio. The groundhog apartment complex is still near the compost mound, and skunks still visit, sometimes leaving their scent behind.
Raccoons are constant visitors, but thankfully they are no longer residents in our home. I guess they learned their lesson from the last time they decided to move in. It was many years ago, and Passover food was not always readily available in our city, so we had to buy our non-perishable Kosher for Passover food as soon as it arrived in the supermarket, which was usually a month before the holiday. We stored it all in our attic, which has a door and some steps up from our then bedroom. One Saturday morning we were in bed, and heard some noise coming from the attic. When my husband opened the door, he saw a large racoon escape through the little screen window. The lady racoon may have smelled the food, ripped the screen, got in and made a nest in the fiberglass insulation. She proceeded to bite into the cocoa box, but spat it out. It was too bitter. But she devoured all the Manischewitz Mandelbroit cookies! (I learned since to bake my own). After my husband placed a plywood board to prevent her from entering, she got so angry that she started to rip shingles off the roof and throw them at him.
A year of so later we were in the living room listening to a new record that my husband bought. We had a fairly new music system, and he made it a habit to visit “The Madrigal,” a record store downtown that specialized in classical music. He usually came home once a week with a new record. Suddenly we heard “scratch, scratch, tinkle, tinkle” noises, and he thought the new record had a scratch. But when he took the record off, the noise continued. Next to the record player, in the fireplace, we observed some wet spots. When we called the wildlife trapping service, they advised us to make a small fire with newspapers, so the smoke would chase out the animals. Sure enough, a mama raccoon came out with a baby in her mouth, and quickly left the vicinity. It was the last time raccoons decided to move in with us. But we are fond of the critters, and they are surely one of the smartest animals around. We do take out scraps for them when we have some bones, which they like.
Tomorrow I will take a walk again to the river and the park at the end of our street, to see the progress from a week ago. We had a few colder nights, and the daytime temperature is dropping as well. The Canada geese are flying overhead, even as some have decided to winter here. Ducks are floating on the river, and herons are diving for fish. The deer come to the clearing near the river-bend at dusk to drink, and gaze at us from the safety of the far bank. We will soon leave this idyllic landscape for a while, hoping to come back in the spring to see the snow melting and the new growth sprouting.
We will welcome back the flock of geese and see the goslings again around the park. I hope we will soak up sun and come back stronger and healthier from our experiences of the milder winter and re-connection with friends, family, and nature in our other home and homeland.