The Smell of Fall


 Photo Credit: J B Foster via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: J B Foster via Compfight cc

Autumn Fires
by Robert Louis Stevenson

In the other gardens
 And all up the vale,
From the autumn bonfires
 See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over
 And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes
The grey smoke towers.

Sing a song of seasons!
 Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
 Fires in the fall!

Fall arrived Tuesday, the day I was making my way home from a  trip to California and Hawaii. When I left New Mexico, ten days earlier, morning glories still ranged up and down the coyote fence and hummingbirds flitted around the sugar-water filled feeder.

Over three thousand miles away on the Big Island’s west coast the air was heavy and still on one of the last days of summer. The palm trees were quiet, not a whisper of a trade wind. Even the Pacific seemed subdued. At the beach a long, pale pod from a kiawe tree fell at my feet.

 Photo Credit: Shawn McCready via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Shawn McCready via Compfight cc

Pecking in the grass, a kolea hunted for insects. Hawaiian school children keep an eye out for the arrival of the long-legged golden plovers, winter visitors from the Arctic–a sure sign of autumn in a place where signs of the changing seasons can seem subtle to visitors from the north.

Back in Santa Fe I know what to look for.  It’s still warm, almost hot, but the rabbitbrush has bloomed yellow and a canyon towhee scratches in the dirt looking for seeds. High up in the crown of a dark-green cottonwood I spot a patch of gold. And, in the evening air I catch a whiff of piñon smoke wafting from an adobe chimney.

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