Heartspoken's View from the Bench series

I began this series of posts in late June, 2014, with a goal of teaching myself how to be more observant by exploring a small piece of the world right outside my door at different times of the year. You can do this yourself, whether you live in a country home or a city high rise. I'm stepping outside to sit on the Trex bench right underneath my kitchen window for no more than 10 to 20 minutes—equipped only with my cell phone's camera, a pair of binoculars, pen, and pad of paper—and report my observations: sights, sounds, smells, sensations. Call it a micro-exploration, but I think it will be fun to do it at different times of the year and watch the changes. We may not discover anything earth-shattering, but I'm sure by this time next year, we'll have trained ourselves to pay just a little closer attention to the tiny wonders all around us. To find all the posts in this series, use the category drop-down list in the right sidebar. You'll find “View from the Bench” under “Connect with Nature.”

silver maple tree

Silver maple

October 12 at 8:30 AM

It's 51 degrees Fahrenheit as I step outside with my cup of coffee to enjoy a gray October morning. The fleece jacket feels good, but so does the crisp, cool air. As I settle down, I realize the coffee is not the only source of steam. I can see my breath in front of me.

Compared to summer mornings when the bird calls were so cacophonous, it's very quiet. A lone goose honks in the distance, and I wonder if it's looking for the rest of its brethren heading south for the winter. I see a single crow and hear its occasional caw, but no answering calls.

Condensation from the morning mist is dripping from leaf to leaf in the Catalpa tree, sounding for all the world like a rain shower.

Wind sculpture in a bed of grasses

Wind sculpture in a bed of grasses

The wind sculpture is turning gently on its spindle. The grasses underneath have filled in since earlier in the summer, and we've had to cut their seed stalks back to keep them from getting entangled in the mechanism. In the distance, I hear the low, dull roar of a distant jet, hidden beyond the low ceiling of gray clouds.

The silver maple is a blaze of yellow, and in just a day since my husband mowed the lawn, it has dropped a round yellow carpet of leaves at its base. Every little while, a yellow leaf drifts lazily to join the carpet until a sudden breeze rustles the tree and creates a shower of color.

A squirrel is chattering in the treetop, scolding something I can't see. A hawk? A woodpecker? Probably just another squirrel.

The old apple tree straight in front of me is pitiful. It bore no fruit this year, and now it has very few leaves remaining. It is still a wonderful respite for the birds, as evidenced by many woodpecker holes in its trunk. When we put out bird feeders again (after the bears have gone into hibernation), it will become a tower of avian activity.

Crimson maple

Crimson maple

The crimson maple's red is beginning to be showy, especially at the top of the tree. There is still  great deal of green, however, and the mottled effect is stunning.

The hummingbird feeders are quiet. The last sighting of a hummer was about ten days ago, but I've kept fresh nectar out for stragglers or migrant birds passing through.

The flowerbed is bedraggled. Several plants died over the summer and weren't replaced, so there are large areas of bare ground. Dark brown stalks need to be pulled, but the herbs going to seed are a flowery show and a testament to the new cycle of life and growth they represent.

The sudden raucous cries of several crows tells me something has upset them and interrupted their morning routines.

To my right, I can see a splash of color from the pumpkin and the pot of white mums  our daughter and her husband got for us this past weekend.

View from the bench: Chives Seeds The Catalpa tree and chestnut trees are still mostly green, but a few yellow “elephant ear” leave on the Catalpa are visible at the ends of the branches. There's a Catalpa cigar seed pod on the deck near my feet, and it looks, at first glance, like a snake.

I can't see the Massanutten mountain range to the East at all. It's covered by low-hanging clouds.

The beech tree is still green, and I know it's one tree that holds most of its leaves all winter, even after they turn brown.

The pine trees in the woods have shed a thick carpet of sepia needles, courtesy of last week's wind.

The Kimberly ferns in pots on either side of the bench have withstood the drought, mostly because they've been watered by my dishwater every evening. They will turn brown but keep their shape throughout the winter.

View from the bench: Catalpa Cigar  PodThe bird chatter has gotten louder—or maybe I've just started tuning in. My Carolina wren is always vying for attention from the top of the phone pole, and two bluejays are cawing at each other in their distinctive light version of a crow's call.

The first car in twenty minutes goes by on the main road beyond the pine woods. Oh, I do love living in the country!

Just as I'm about to leave, I hear loud responsive honking calls and see a V-formation of about nine geese flying over the barn. I hope my lone goose found his family.

Take a few minutes to sit outside and make notes or sketches of what you see. It's a wonderful way to become part of the natural world around you.

View from the bench: Pine Woods

Pine woods with a blanket of pine needles


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