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A Swiftly Tilting Planet

Sep 10, 2009

Autumn LeafI hate to rush through life, but September always finds me anticipating autumn’s imminent arrival. The signs are everywhere. You might not notice the sun’s increasing slant or the flocks of monarch butterflies and nighthawks moving southward, but it’s hard to miss the first autumn leaf.

I’m not talking about sumac, whose leaves can glow scarlet in dusty July roadsides, or dogwood, which sometimes dons somber purple in response to stress. It was a single maple leaf that served me notice of the approaching equinox.

The smallish leaf lay in the path from my car to my office. To make sure I didn’t miss the hint, nature took special care to make the calling card visually arresting, with deep autumn red enclosing a chevron of summer green. It sent me back to the car for my camera.

I know autumn seems melancholy to some people. It marks the shift from warm, sunny days toward cold, dank ones. But it’s also a season of abundance, when forest floors are littered with acorns, wetlands fill with waterfowl, thickets harbor woodcock and deer shake off their summer torpor to conceive next year’s fawns.

You see a new spring in hunters’ strides this time of year. Smiles tug at the corners of our mouths even as we turn up our collars. We treasure spring and summer, but we begin anticipating fall some time around January.

In any case, there’s nothing to be done about autumn. It’s coming, and winter’s on its heels. You won’t miss summer as much if you take time to see it to the door. Missouri’s outdoors are fabulous in September and even better in October, whether you are a hunter, an angler, a photographer or a woodland wanderer.

When you find your harbinger of fall, accept the invitation and get outside. You will be glad you did.

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