Any excuse for a drive in the country
For several years, the volunteer fire department in a neighboring town served a wonderful breakfast one Sunday a month. To add to the pleasure of the excellent meal, we took a long and winding route home that showcased the changes in our landscape month by month. One October I was so taken with the beauty of our rural county, I wrote about it to friends who lived in other parts of the country. Details may change from year to year, but this description captures the highlights of a Shenandoah Valley autumn for those of us fortunate enough to live here.
Over the river and through the woods
While the rest of the country has suffered droughts, we’ve had an abundance of rain, so the grass is as emerald green as it usually is in summer. The ample moisture and lack of sharp frost has kept the tree leaves greener than usual for mid-October, but now they’re turning, and our breezy weather is taking its toll.
The dense, cool woods of summer are lighter now. Enough leaves have fallen that sunlight can filter through and highlight the forest’s autumn carpet. Deer are skittish, their comings and goings more visible. They must know hunting season opens soon.
We go down a hill, around a bend, and we’re out of the woods, overlooking lush fields stretching to the river. Just high enough to escape the floods sits an old stone house, chimneys at both ends, with a spring house and a summer kitchen out back. Tiny slits in the limestone foundation tell the careful observer there are fortifications in the cellar where family and friends withstood attacks from the natives of this valley who had named it the Daughter of the Stars.
Around another bend and we’re back in the woods, clean and grazed by the cattle. Emerging from the woods to the next farm, there’s a log house with the chinking showing. And so we wander…up and down single lane roads, nodding and waving to anyone we pass, enjoying the ever-changing view of fields and woods and sun on the river.
The sheer joy of being alive
The clouds and rain are supposed to be back tonight, but for today we’ll clean up the garden, shred the cornstalks, and stop to watch each time a long chain of geese goes by. Lady will run for the sheer joy of being alive, tracking rabbits or groundhogs or squirrels or coons. Last night’s pork roast will be tonight’s pulled pork on fresh baked rolls. We’ll build a fire in the woodstove and check the Weather Channel to make sure Indian Summer is still due later in the week. That will be the time to finish washing all the windows, push up the screens, and pull the storm windows down tight against the winter winds.
Lean into the seasons of your life
Whether you drive a winding road, a city street, or a crowded highway, may the changes of the seasons become as familiar as your heartbeat, marking the days of your life.
Note from Elizabeth: What natural changes around you this time of year trigger feelings or rituals for you? Please comment below or join the conversation at Elizabeth’s Facebook Page.
Today’s guest blogger − and Nature Connection Messenger − is Esther Miller, a Shenandoah Valley neighbor and fellow amateur radio operator (KK6AD). Esther has been a Virginia Master Gardener for over ten years. “I’ve been gardening since I was a kid,” she says, and her love of nature is evident whenever you’re around her. She has traveled all over the United States and brings a wealth of experience and observance of nature to her writing.
Born and raised in the Midwest, Esther lived in California for over 30 years before moving to the Shenandoah Valley over 10 years ago with her husband, Larry. “I was an Occupational Therapist when I wasn’t being a fulltime homemaker and mother, working with children who had learning disabilities, physical disabilities, and autism.” She has two children and two grandchildren and has been married almost 39 years.
Besides gardening, Esther is interested in genealogy and travel in the U.S.
Photo credits: Fall scene by Daniel Spaulding and breakfast food by “Space Heater” via BigStockPhoto.com.