It is an eerily warm November day, the soybeans behind my property have been harvested, the poison ivy has blessedly gone below knee level, and once again a path has opened up to the woods and trails to the east. What freedom and joy. Piper is liberated, exuberantly following each intoxicating whiff and sound, as we enter the climax forest of beech and maple and crunch through the leaf litter.
When we first bought this property a few years back, I remember the elation at discovering these trails. Who made them? Who walked them? Who cared for them? Now I know, and am ever grateful for the feet and saws that have gone before me.
Then, as now, on a sun-drenched November day, there was only one species of tree that still had its leaves, their reluctance to let go a defiant gesture at the inevitable onset of winter. The tree is a Chinquapin oak, loved by wild turkeys, grouse, deer, and squirrels for its tasty acorns, and prized by pioneers for its straight wood, perfect for fencing. I will not be noshing acorns or harvesting fence wood, but I take heart in the tenacity of those burnt-orange leaves and their utter commitment to being the last ones standing.