|Minnesota apples for Autumn|
Photo by J. Harrington
Jim Gilbert, one of Minnesota's renowned naturalists, tells us that juncos may begin to arrive next week. Since the Better Half and I are headed to our North Country for a few days next week, we may cross paths with some as they head South while we do the opposite. A few years ago, and yet later in the season, we had a trip up the Arrowhead brightened as we encountered snow buntings along the North Shore of Lake Superior. That was a surprise, as is the prospect of seeing juncos, which I always consider a Winter bird, near the beginning of "apple season." In fact, with the weather pattern we've had this year, I don't really expect to see juncos much before Halloween, if then.
|snow bunting without snow|
Photo by J. Harrington
So, here are some of the ways Autumn in the North Country becomes a feast for the senses:
- The color change of the leaves pleases our eyes.
- Apples and pumpkins and the spices and caramel and all that go with them treat our taste buds.
- Whistling wings of waterfowl and whispers of wind-driven snow flakes alert our hearing to the constant shifting of this too short season.
- Flannel shirts and warm socks and heavier blankets at night treat our sense of touch.
- We've lost the smell of burning leaves but still have the fecund aroma of dank, dark duff if we slow down enough during our leaf-peeping. If that's missed, we hope there's at least the scent of roasting turkey at Thanksgiving. Speaking of which, there's about two months between now and Thanksgiving.
ApplesRain hazes a street cart’s green umbrella but not its apples, heaped in paper cartons, dry under cling film. The apple man, who shirrs his mouth as though eating tart fruit, exhibits four like racehorses at auction: Blacktwig, Holland, Crimson King, Salome. I tried one and its cold grain jolted memory: a hill where meager apples fell so bruised that locals wondered why we scooped them up, my friend and I, in matching navy blazers. One bite and I heard her laughter toll, free as school’s out, her face flushed in late sun. I asked the apple merchant for another, jaunty as Cezanne’s still-life reds and yellows, having more life than stillness, telling us, uncut, unpeeled, they are not for the feast but for themselves, and building strength to fly at any moment, leap from a skewed bowl, whirl in the air, and roll off a tilted table. Fruit-stand vendor, master of Northern Spies, let a loose apple teach me how to spin at random, burn in light and rave in shadows. Bring me a Winesap like the one Eve tasted, savored and shared, and asked for more. No fool, she knew that beauty strikes just once, hard, never in comfort. For that bitter fruit, tasting of earth and song, I’d risk exile. The air is bland here. I would forfeit mist for hail, put on a robe of dandelions, and run out, broken, to weep and curse — for joy.
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Please be kind to each other while you can.