October Garden

Aah – sun! These sunny October days weight the year differently here. Spring is long and cold, but autumn is also long and sometimes surprisingly warm – at least warm-in-a-windbreaker warm.

On the first morning back from Victoria I found the garden  still so beautiful in its rustic way. The hop vine climbs up the Buffalo deck to the roof, covered with bracts and blossoms with their piney fragrance. The deer have nibbled a fountain-shaped topiary from the Sambucus out front. The first blueberry bush to blossom has gone all carmine red – the last one offers final berries. Lavender needs cutting back, but cosmos, calendula, and crocosmia bloom with vigor. So do yellow black-eyed susans, blue asters, and nasturtium. “Autumn Joy” sedum lives up to its name.

I make a mental list of things to do: put away the umbrella (if the orb weaver is gone). Harvest the dirt from the new molehills close to the garden – I’ll shovel it up for a garden bed and stick a twig of mint into the hole (local advice for discouraging moles). I like to think about their subterranean lives parallel to ours, but Frances isn’t keen to share her space, and they’re at risk in the courtyard.

Critters have been about. A beautiful coyote – interested I suppose in the rabbit population on the south forty – stopped to stare at me as I drove in. (Coyotes often do that – is it a look of defiance or curiosity?)

I watched a racoon walk up the front path, dressed in that good-looking bandit regalia, big body and little legs ending in clawed paws. It seemed to be on familiar turf, turning its head back and forth and sniffing. Maybe it’s the one that uncovers the yogurt cup and takes out the slugs? (Do they eat live slugs or just dead ones marinated in beer?) We don’t see raccoons often, but last year I interrupted a mother attempting to herd her three kits up the front walk. She stood still but the babies scattered to the nearest tree – climbing up and peeking their masked faces at me from different sides of the trunk.

Vita Sackville-West wrote that autumn is really the most beautiful season of the year, adding that it is only as a portent that it troubles (she often compared the seasons to our human lifespan). The trouble foretold used to be the coming Alaska winter for me. October was my most dreaded month of the year – no holiday cheer or real snow yet – but often cold and very dark.

Now October feels like a gift of foggy or crisp mornings and sunny afternoons – for hikes in fall foliage, and for tasks (including maybe soon – the roofer) like planting bulbs on a sunny fall day.

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