Autumn Leaves

Photograph by Jennifer Smith-Mayo

Here I am in the midst of a cool but sunny day in fall, my favorite time of year. In our rural pocket of Maine, everyone is busy with the tasks of the season, gathering and storing and tightening and tidying and buttoning up.

Our garden is all but put to bed. The garlic is planted, as are dozens of tulip bulbs. Tomatoes and basil are but fragrant summer memories, and only a few persistent beans, peppers, and squash hang on. The kale, chard, and spinach seem quite pleased with the cooler temperatures (I’m with them).

Many of our neighbors work at night. Barred and horned owls call across the valley, then wing low, snatching up scurrying field mice. Coyotes yap and yip along the ridges all around us, giddy in the cool night air. The whitetails snort and stomp, and scavenge our windfalls. We don’t mind, there are plenty for us all. We’ve been picking apples for weeks and the pantry shelves are filling with jars of tangy applesauce that will taste great come February.

One of my favorite fall pastimes is reading outside, a cup of hot coffee at hand. If you enjoy stories on the spookier side, the sort late autumn brings, I can shamelessly recommend a couple I’ve written–Myths and Mysteries of New Hampshire, which offers more than its share of strange and startling moments. The second is Haunted Old West, a collection of all-too-true stories of chilling locales across the Old West.

Or perhaps you have a favorite book you like to return to this time of year. One of mine, Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls, is a powerful story about a boy and his dogs and the love they have for one another.

Another of my fall reading indulgences is poetry (a year-round enjoyment, if I’m honest). Autumn, in particular, is the perfect time to read Robert Frost, Donald Hall, and Edward Hyland, three New England poets whose work feels as fresh as the first bite of a crisp, fall apple.

Ah, but what a day we have today. The gray squirrels dip and sway on the sunflower heads as if they were amusement-park rides, and the maples and birches do their level best to astound me with each look I sneak out the window. I’m not getting much work done–and I don’t mind one bit.

Okay, back to it. Happy autumn to all!

Matthew P. Mayo