I cannot say why autumn is my favorite time of year. Perhaps it’s all the vibrant shades of yellow—the goldenrods that begin blooming into their full color just as August is ending, the black-eyed Susans by the side of the road, the beautiful elms with their burnished foliage. The garden delights and inspires me as much in fall as it does when it is born in the spring.
The little poplar in the middle of the yard is majestic, even though it was planted only a few months ago. Its leaves are a buttery gold now, demanding to be not just admired, but captured eternally in a painting, an illustration, or a poem. Wind chimes announce the arrival of a sharp hint of autumn air, as do the orange mums that sway like awkward children beside licorice-scented marigolds and winterberry holly leaves that sift to the ground in each lifted breeze.
A neighbor’s cat has come to haunt the garden, and I happily watch as he perches on the white fence post. He brings an unbidden smile as I observe him swatting at a yellow butterfly that flits teasingly near and then away into the ever-deepening blue sky. “Smoke” is a good name for him, I think, as I see him float across the yard, chasing squirrels up into oak branches heavy with acorns. Now, he is frightening bees out of the red-berry bushes and driving tiny brown rabbits back into their dens.
There is a meadow across the gravel road that keeps horses entertained from noon to night with its long, generous table of golden light and a grove of walnut trees, the fruit sweet and ripe. As for me, summer cannot end without one more taste of homemade lemonade, strong on my tongue, and one more sunset viewed from the porch, where the sky holds nothing but a bluebird’s song and clouds of starlings hovering above the dusky fields.
One neighbor who is trimming his grass—maybe for the last time this year—pauses near the gnarled trunk of a gingko tree, its emerald-green leaves having turned a bright yellow as the days have cooled. In a few weeks the leaves will drop, all at once, as they usually do, spreading a golden carpet over the ground. Another neighbor is planting pansies beside a trellis beautifully wrapped in a feathery vine from seeds that, she said, “must have blown in from the hills across the way.” We are sharing roses, she and I, as mine have exploded over the picket fence and cascaded, unbidden but welcome, into her backyard.
The fields of cornstalks are tall, and as the sun goes down, an orange glow, moody and mysterious, rises from their midst. Soon, bushels of sweet corn, apples, persimmons, and pears will be gathered into plentiful harvest. With the cat asleep on the porch, vast skies blanketing meadows dotted with the yellow petals of wildflowers, and the leaves of elm and maple trees littering the hillside like confetti, there is nowhere else I would rather be.
Text Deborah A. Bennett