The autumnal equinox took her bow three days ago, but no one needed to tell me. Here, in Montana, the onset of fall needs no announcement; its signs are everywhere.
The aspens morphing into gold in my backyard, an uptick in the number of mallards feeding in the wetlands on my drive to work, an impressively racked mule deer buck bounding alongside a friend's driveway, ripe vegetables in my garden, snow in the Bridgers last Sunday evening, and a gentler, softer, more brilliant sun.
That's the evidence I see. That's my NPR report. But what I glimpse also makes me ponder the goings on out of view.
A bull elk bugling for his harem deep in the Gallatins, a sow grizzly and her cub scampering across Pebble Creek in search of calories for their winter slumber, a hen brown trout full of eggs hurrying up the Madison River to spawn.
Fall, the sweet season, my favorite, has finally arrived.
And in her honor, here is a beautiful passage from Gretel Ehrlich's wonderfully powerful The Solace of Open Spaces:
Autumn teaches us that fruition is also death; that ripeness is a form of decay. The willows, having stood for so long near water, begin to rust. Leaves are verbs that conjugate the seasons.
Today the sky is a wafer. Placed on my tongue, it is a wholeness that has already disintegrated; placed under the tongue, it makes my heart beat strongly enough to stretch myself over the winter brilliances to come. Now I feel the tenderness to which this season rots. Its defenselessness can no longer be corrupted. Death is its purity, its sweet mud. The string of storms that came across Wyoming like elephants tied tail to trunk falters now and bleeds into a stillness.
There is neither sun, nor wind, nor snow falling. The hunters are gone; snow geese waddle in grainfields. Already, the elk have started moving out of the mountains toward sheltered feed-grounds. Their great antlers will soon fall off like chandeliers shaken from ballroom ceilings. With them the light of these autumn days, bathed in what Tennyson called "a mockery of sunshine," will go completely out.
Welcome, Autumn. And thank you.