Wildersmith on the Gunflint: October 4

Autumn has arrived...! (Photo by Bryan Hansel)
Autumn has arrived...! (Photo by Bryan Hansel)

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Border country offers a “Boozhoo” (welcome) to October. September ended on a stunning note throughout the Gunflint corridor. The past week or 10 days in these parts have been magical in regard to our north woods transition from a warm to cold atmosphere.

If ever I have seen one, this autumn seems to be the most beautiful on record for yours truly. However, if you have followed me over the years of this column, you will remember that I have said this more than once about this dramatic multicolored experience as each year supersedes my previous recollections.

Our month of the “falling leaves” moon has been so aptly tagged by the Ojibwe ancestors of long ago. Mother Nature has many tasks to look after with the coming of each succeeding season.

This yearly segment is no exception as Sh” has now taken on the role of carpet layer in our northern forest. After a few short days of flaming iridescence, the tokens of flora life high in the forest have begun to trickle earthward.

With the help of a steady rain and gusty winds last Saturday night and into Sunday, the layering of leaves and age-old pine needles got under way. A trip leaf peeping with friends last Sunday found the umpteenth thousandth layer of such accumulation being put in place by “Her Highness.”

Golden brown flakes were floating down in our pathway like squalls of an autumn blizzard, while tawny needles of red and white pine pierced the air space like early winter sleet. And, as we tooled along the byway, these reminders of another growing season danced and skipped alongside and behind to what will most likely be their final resting place.

What a seemingly sad farewell to the joyous quaking and awesome shade that characterized our summer. As I reflect on our leaf peeping trek, we probably never give thought to the fleeting life of a deciduous leaf.  How about a leafy memoir?

Born at the end of a growing season, these tiny embryos of plant life remain curled in their winter husks for seemingly months on end. With a sudden burst of warm energy from old Sol come late March or April, these buds of a new generation wake up and begin to feel the juices of life enter their veins.

Gradually peeling off their winter coats they flex to open and accept the light of a new day. Soon stems of their lifelines are strengthened to enable a fluttering of movement. By June in these northern latitudes, the green hands are palm up, ready to meet the tribulations of life in the forest.

The solstice of summer finds them basking in the sunshine, turning their backsides up for an impending thunderstorm and hanging on for dear life during windy days. What a life!

By July’s end, minutes of daylight are slowly diminishing and the processes of life start taking notice. Green pigment production dwindles as other characters of their make-up step forward.

August finds them turning restless with change. Come September they are proudly dressed for the harvest celebration, but nervous with cool anticipation. Suddenly, life takes a turn. Juices of vitality begin to wither, flush pigments fade and the stem of support gives way. Gusts of the season cause them to lose their grip, and it’s the beginning of the end.

It’s October, leaves tumble and fall, skittering about until finally nestled on the forest floor.  They are not yet done, though, in their leafy contribution to creation. Decaying atrophy adds them to the eons that have gone before them providing nutrient substance for a new generation yet to come. And the beat goes on!

Amazing is the minimal duration for these verdant creations. While other species in the universe may also experience short spans of life expectancy, none seem to offer the rapture of a zillion dazzling leaflets growing green, to yellow, to orange, to red and even in death, a russet tone. Their grandeur will forever capture us. Happy fall!

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor this abundant beauty in the northland!


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