It’s Not a “Descent” - From My Window

Janie Thibodeau Martin

I was looking at a recipe in the New York Times, and the introduction stated that the dish was a perfect way to start the “descent” into fall.

Well, the author can descend if he likes, but I am “ascending” into autumn, my favorite time of the year.

When I was a child, of course I loved summer the best.  Free time, lots of adventures, trips to Jeraldy Boom* to swim in the Peshtigo River.  But fall has been my happy time since I became an adult.

My daily dog walk wildflower counts have been dropping from the high of 23 to around 15.  No matter, as much as I’ll miss the flowers, I’ll soon be raising my eyes from the ditches and fields to the treetops for the greatest show of the year on my gravel road.  In my eyes, there is no wildflower that matches the flaming red, yellows and oranges of the woods in autumn.

Right now, the garden crops demand my time.  Tomatoes and cucumbers have to be processed quite quickly, no matter what plans I had. But the fall crops of apples and squash wait politely if I can’t get to them immediately.   The raspberries just need to be picked, and then popped into the freezer as is.  On a snowy winter day, I’ll retrieve them and make a most welcome pie or sauce, the berries just as nice as they were fresh.

My sunflower patch is a busy place.  The birds bypass the sunflower feeder and go to the flowerheads to “pick their own.”  It’s remarkable to watch the individual flowerlets in each head change to seeds within a day or two, so the birds are working the mature seeds with bees servicing the flowering portions simultaneously. Sunflowers always make me smile.  Beloved by humans, birds and insects; while deer raid bird feeders for seed, they have never bothered my garden sunflowers. They are so easy to grow that volunteers spring up everywhere.

The sweetcorn stalks are cut down after corn harvest and are drying for shocks.  Several will go to my mom’s house, where they decorate her little garden gate.  She’ll want me to put the orange lights on them, although the rude squirrels chew the wires every single year.  It’s a ritual, with me doing my part and the rodents doing theirs.

We’ve had four sandhill cranes on our lawn daily for weeks now, two adults and two youngsters, who are nearly as big as their parents.  They work the lawn for bugs during the day, and late in the afternoon move operations to Hank Lake, at the western marshy edge.  They are completely habituated to us; we keep a respectful distance and it is a pleasure watching them.  Soon, they will all fly onward, so we enjoy them while we can.

Last week we worked our way through what I sincerely hope is the last period of bloody hot weather.  I work outside early in the morning, and retreat to the house during the heat of the day.  I am fortunate I can do so, local farmers are driven by the calendar to be outdoors now, not all of them in air-conditioned tractor cabs.  My sympathies also go to the construction workers.   My Oklahoma family had a recent day of heat index 123 degrees F, and I melt just thinking about it, with school already in session there.  (Don’t ask me why they start so early.  One of the mysteries I never solved when we lived there.)

I love a chilly fall morning, with a light jacket required dog walk early in the day and t-shirt working weather in the afternoon.  I am fine with the slow shortening of the days. I know the long cold nights of winter will soon be on us; but I am old enough to find the good in the present without fixating on what will come next.  I can’t change the four season climate, nor do I wish to. 

Sunday at 5:45 a.m., I arrived at the animal shelter attired in a hooded sweatshirt over a t-shirt.  It was 46 degrees, and I resolved to get my  “shelter jacket” up from the basement as soon as I got home, because the chill was pronounced.  Nearly all the dogs and I just loved it, though.  (The two Shih Tzu mixes were not at all impressed.  Didn’t like the cold, didn’t like the wet grass.  I’ve come to think of them as the divas of the dog world, superbly bred for the difficult work of lying on couches indoors.)

I am anticipating evenings sitting by the fire pit; the walks through the woods as leaves tumble down to the trail; and fresh apple pie.  I won’t miss the flies who torment the horse, the energy-sapping sweaty days, or the pile of produce demanding my time.  I’m ascending into fall, and joyful to be doing so.

*I am not sure about the proper spelling of this river beach, if you know, please correct me!

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address:



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