Gray Jay in the tree next to camp
The songbirds have migrated south for the winter leaving us with the chickadees, ravens, blue jays, and grouse. It has been a brilliant fall this year and the leaves around camp have been blazing orange, red and yellow. Many of them fell to the ground a few days ago in a windstorm leaving bare branches clicking in the wind and me with a rake in my hand.
I stood on the warm sun-filled porch looking out at the yard of leaves. A few more fell in a cluster by the birdfeeder looking like a small flock of birds flying from its branches. I held a quarter in my hands rubbing its’ raised surface and eyeing the rake and wheel-barrel by the fading garden flowers. I’d been putting off raking for a few days now. “Heads I rake the yard today, tails I canoe around the pond instead.” I flipped the coin, catching it as it glinted in the sun and slapped it meaningfully onto the back of my hand. I peeked under my fingers. Heads. Rats. I could flip again…but I didn’t. I walked down the steps and picked up the rake to begin, waving at the neighbors who were strolling down the road on this sunny fall day.
Ready to rake?
Raking up the yard
Bring it on winter!
With this year’s and next year’s wood stacked in the woodshed and the leaves raked up from the yard I called it a day and strolled down to the pond. Even with the frost we’ve been getting at night the days are still warm enough to take the canoe out and follow the great blue heron as it fishes along the shoreline. Winter is coming, but it’s not quiet here yet and it’s time to soak in as much of the remaining fall days as possible.
In other news, the roof at Red Quill is being torn off and replaced with a new dormer on the backside of the camp. Get ready for more headroom upstairs! Check out the facebook page for pictures of the progress!
Goodbye old roof!
sunset on the river
The loons are singing their last calls before flying south for the winter; it is chilling to hear them calling at night and I know it may be one of the last times I hear them for a while. Each time that I hear them I become very still to soak in every last note.
last day of fishing
The river is much colder as I wade in it on the last day of the fishing season. The leaves are starting to turn red and yellow along the riverbanks and the maple leaves match the brook trout’s red fins and bellies. I fish in the cool evening air until my feet start to feel numb and my fingers hurt from pulling brookies off my fly in the cold water. I can smell a few skunks as I walk back to camp at dusk.
I sit with my little two year old niece around the campfire and tell her the story of how the night sky was made. She snuggles into my lap in the cold autumn night and we gaze at the brilliantly speckled sky. When the story ends she simply gazes skyward and a loon calls in the night. I suck my breath in and say “Did you hear that?” “Listen it might call again.” And we both listen for its haunting clear call. I let the sound surround us and we stay still and silent for a bit after its call. Then she stirs in my lap peering at the low burning fire and I pull a log out from the nearby pile, brushing off a few fallen leaves that have collected on the pile and add it to the fire. We sit up late by the fire and listen to the night sounds and watch the starry sky above us and the bonfire flames at our feet.
Nyana at Red Quill
It is Autumn; a time for harvesting the last of the summer’s abundance, soaking in the last bit of warmth during the day, building the first fire in the wood stove at night, and pulling out the winter wool blankets.
Checked green and red wool jackets pass through the woods, their colors & patterns as much a sign of fall as the leaves covering the ground. The ground is littered with oranges, browns and reds, and the occasional patch of green grass poking above the thick layer of leaves. Only a few leaves still cling to the branches. Between the skeletal trees I look for grouse. The woods behind Red Quill are an ideal habitat for grouse and woodcock and I have been flushing them all month.
The leaves rustle beneath my feet as I move slowly through the woods keeping my head up and my gun bent over the crook of my elbow. I think about the time as a kid that climbed my favorite tree behind our house, for no other reason than to be outside, and listened to my father move slowly down through the field to the edge of the woods. He stood beneath me unaware that I was there, scanning the field for deer. When he began to move on I whispered, “Hey Papa!” and he looked around laughing and joking that the hunter was being hunted. I thought about that now, wondering how many birds were watching me pass by.
Fall is harvest season— time to harvest the last of the veggies from the garden, game from the woods, and firewood from the trees. I stand and listen to the sounds of fall: the rhythmic chop of an ax splitting wood and the “thunk” of stacking it, the swooshing of a rake against leaves, the far off boom of a gun shot, and the dry tinkle of leaves hitting the ground as they fall. I head back to camp and wonder if it will be cold enough to start a fire in the wood stove tonight and if I will be lucky enough to eat a partridge.
The leaves are changing colors, the fishing is good, and I know it is fleeting, so I try to store the sunshine in my skin and fish as much as I can. I sit on the porch of Red Quill and write this as a warm breeze blows over my bare arms. The breeze carries the remnants of the summer warmth and tells of the coming cold. At night I have to wear a sweatshirt and hat when I walk down to the pond or along the woods-path behind the camp, but right now I am soaking in the last warm rays.
The fishing has picked up again for the last few weeks of September and I can hardly stand to be without a fly rod in my hand. Recently as I stood along the Magalloway River at pump house pool I watched a friend pull out a good sized salmon from the water, it’s shiny silver sides catching the eye of a great blue heron upstream who was standing stalk still and undisturbed by us. Later my bike tires crunched over orange and red fallen leaves along the Rapid River as I searched for more fish. It’s fall in New England and it only lasts for a few weeks. I keep trying to imprint the smell and feeling of the air into my memory so that when November comes I will have something to hold onto to get me through to the powder days of winter.
Last weekend I resurrected the old wooden skis from the corner of my Grandparent’s box attic and dusted them off. Delicately carved into the wood above each of the binding are my relatives’ initials: my great grandmother, great uncle, grandfather, aunts and uncles. There is even a pair that my grandfather used in the 1930’s Olympic Ski Trials. As I wiped away the dirt the hand painted mark of the maker started to show through the years of wear. Carefully I put all the skis in the truck and drove them to Red Quill where they can be seen and enjoyed. I unloaded them on the porch and rested my fishing rod next to them—fishing and skiing tools illuminated in the fall sunshine —what a perfect image of being at camp.
Granddad on Wooden Skis