Walking down the stone pathway, entirely enveloped in a multi-colored cloud of autumn flowers and herbs…a pyrotechnic blaze of oranges and reds from floral to foliage. I wasn’t just looking at the garden I was part of it for a while. As I stood among fall asters, sunflowers, cardoon, verbena bonariensis, tansy, pineapple sage and late flowering red hot poker, the air hummed with bees…butterflies flitted by and one landed on my shoulder while a hummingbird got lost in a morning glory bloom and brilliant golden finches feasted on bursting seedheads…a delicately spun web stood out in the sun, covered in tiny drops of dew, looking like fine jewelry…an orb spider sat waiting for breakfast. It was such an extraordinary morning… Every element within the garden contributes to the welcoming atmosphere…from a chair placed near a clump of lavender to the stripped cedar fence posts around the potager that support fruiting vines to the old bench providing a solitary spot from which to admire the blooms and fragrance. Everything is practical yet visually pleasing. I love this time of year, the colors, the changing light, the crisp morning stillness, the pale autumn sun filtering through the remaining leaves on the trees…all invoke an atmosphere of slipping gently into winter.
Nature’s palette turns from bright to burning as the dappled light points out the rich red and golden ochre of the autumn leaves…there is no more tranquil place to be this morning than our home in the midst of all this fall glory. At this time of year, everything in the garden is about harvesting and preserving where a few weeks ago all was rampant growth.
Autumn mornings call up all the seasonal tastes that go so well in its company…chestnuts, walnuts, mushrooms, smoky bacon, apples and warm spices. In the crisp light of autumn, golden pumpkins glow with the sunshine they absorbed during long summer days. Like little orange suns, they mark the change of seasons. Equipped with a big basket and sharp clippers, I set off into the woods with my Border Collies, hoping to gather branches of berries and leaves.
Later, feeling a warm glow of satisfaction, I had collected a basketful of the riches of the season… richly colored leaves, bright berries, some large acorns and had enjoyed a robust walk through the serene woods. I returned to the house for there was still much to be done…I have a strong sense of new beginnings each autumn and all that I achieve in a year is what I actually began the previous September and October.
Late afternoon sun drenches the garden with a warm, low light, imparting a rich depth and dramatic intensity to the flowers, while casting long shadows across the yard and illuminating the tops of the trees. As dusk descends, the mysterious and exotic scents of elaeagnus, white ginger, roses and sweet olive mingle and fill the air…the only sounds to disturb the perfect early evening stillness are the low warblings of the guineas starting their roost for the night.
Later, down in our woods, dusk falls and the solar lanterns begin to twinkle along the driveway. A ring of stones circles the fire, throwing flames into the chilly night air. Candle lanterns pick out a path to the back porch, the fire pit and our Hallows Eve Party. Food is laid on the table…the stage is set! The last night of October is ‘the night of all witches’, and a few that I know celebrate the end of the fall harvesting on this night.
Long ago Christian churches transformed this night into ALL HALLOWS, the night before November 1st or ALL SAINTS. Something of the ancient ways lingers in my heart and I’ve prepared a comforting seasonal meal for the spookiest night of the year…to enjoy with a few friends. There are freshly roasted almonds, pecans and pumpkin seeds to nibble with hot spiced wine by the bonfire. The dinner menu is simple…Croque Monsieur, kept warm wrapped in cloth napkins and mugs of steaming, fresh made tomato basil soup topped with chopped basil…satisfying and easy to eat while sitting around the fire. And later, for something sweet…just picked figs stuffed with mascarpone cheese, a splash of brandy and chopped walnuts along with fennel shortbread still warm from the oven…the delicious magic of Hallows Eve. Great friends and good food made a lovely fall evening we’ll long remember.
Year follows year at such a galloping pace these days…many traditional seasonal celebrations fall by the wayside. Slow down, look around at nature’s changing face and celebrate what each season has to offer, whether it be a walk in the woods, a midsummer’s eve garden party or a bountiful harvest supper.