Stick Forts and Survival Stories, Part 1

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery

leaves-oct-2014-erin

Outdoor work in October is one of life’s great joys. The leaves are changing green to bronze, gold and rust red. The air smells better than ever. What is it about October air that smells so good, that feels so good on my arms? The sun is warm, the air is crisp. I’m not disturbed by the knowledge of the impending winter, because I love these days with my whole being. The plants and animals grow quieter, though more urgent. I pause in my yanking out thistles to watch the bustle of the squirrels as they hunt and gather and hide acorns. The tomato plants die back. The black walnut tree loses its leaves and a million slender twigs litter the ground creating a zone where the grass stops growing because of the toxic juglone from the fallen leaves leaching into the ground. In the spring the grass will return.

Yesterday two young deer galloped into my yard. These suburban deer looked alarmed but only trotted past my house when I backed my car out of the driveway. They’ve learned they don’t need to bolt back into the woods across the street. These could be the same two deer that wandered up between houses further down my street while I chatted with a neighbor, each of us with our leashed dogs. We paused in our conversation to watch the slender animals with their tall, pricked ears who saw us, rightly perceived no threat and returned to nibbling the grass. I know the deer munch in veggie gardens and devour plantings, but I love having them here. Their presence, their grace, their adapting to this suburbia of roads and leaf blowers we’ve built around them.

I stroll my yard with loppers to prune dead branches, insistent buckthorn, and leafy burdock that has spread. My daughter gathers the slew of dog toys strewn across the yard and sprays the mud off them with the hose. My son picks up the boards and bricks and ramps of his obstacle course. My husband mows and returns garden tools and pots to the garage. We carry armfuls of branches and vines to the stick fort under the pine tree. We share our discoveries of slugs and centipedes and the prettiest red leaf ever. For two hours, we work together outside and it’s these memories I hope settle deep in the souls of my children, for I think it’s necessary for their survival.