Monday, September 26, 2016

The smell of fall

Fall. The morning air is fresher, crisper somehow. Leaves are turning (very slowly here) and pear and apple trees are just about finished for the season. Screens come down and storm door windows go up. Farmers are harvesting while the women are pulling the blankets and winter clothing from storage. Fall.

Corn mazes and petting farms were not part of our growing up. There were no pumpkin patches or petting farms. We could walk into the corn field, get lost and find our own way home. We grew our own pumpkins. And, we could walk across the yard to pet a farm animal. No autumn bells and whistles for the farm kids. My favorite fall recreation belonged to trees and leaves.

Emma and Nolan attend preK on a nature reserve which is part of our Tualatin Park and Recreation District (THPRD). Every day, rain or shine, they hike in the woods. Nolan saw a deer on the first day and was quite happy with his new school. Ecology is used in all aspects of the teaching. Fall. A perfect time and place to learn.

THPRD covers 50 square miles and serves 240,000 people. 2,500 acres of parks are owned/maintained. This is in Washington County where I live west of Portland which is in Multnomah County. There are 51 paved trails and 17 unpaved. There are 27 miles of streams/waterways and three lakes. The area contains 162 natural areas covering 1,491 acres.  Fall turns this area into a colorful wonderland where migrating birds rest and hikers enjoy the cool weather. My dad would have loved it. This would have been his fall retreat.

Dad was between crop-seasons in the fall. Tobacco was drying out in the shed. Grain and corn had been brought in. Hay and straw was baled. Barns were cleaned and fresh bedding put down for the livestock. Dad had more time on his hands. More times for a little girl.

This was quality time for us. A last fishing trip by the pond. Walks through the woods. Small animals skittered or slowed down with the cooling weather, giving a father a chance to show his daughter more mysteries of nature. Firewood was in place and anticipation was high knowing that soon the fireplace would be blazing and hot dogs roasting once more. Mom made hot chocolate and filled the freezer with pies. She rolled out dough, cutting it into thin noodles to add to our winter favorites. It was fall.

My parents have been gone for many years, yet fall brings them to mind more and more often. Perhaps it is because that was the time of year that we all interacted more. No one was exhausted at the end of the day. We looked at the stars and listened for migrating geese. We lingered by the window with coffee in hand, watching the birds at the feeder. Neighbors dropped in and stayed longer. We all had more time....more time for each other.

It is fall. I do not need the calendar to show me. I can smell it in the air. It is the smell of nature, the smell of clean, the smell of home.

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