Fifteen feet below my shoes I spied a chipmunk. He scurried a few feet, paused to observe his surroundings, and then scurried a few more feet. Finally he came to rest almost directly below me in a small hole, his head peering out. Then it began to, of all things, chirp. At least that is how I can best describe it. Every few seconds its little cheeks puffed out and emitted a muted little chirp. I cannot tell you how long I gazed upon this ritual.
As the spell of the chirping munk was finally broken, I took in my surroundings. Sitting in a tree stand about fifteen feet off the forest floor you see a lot. While keeping an eye out for deer, I was momentarily taken over by a surprising melancholy.
There is something about this time of year for me, it is a season with a reason. I say that I took in my surroundings rather than looked at them because it seemed much more real to my other senses. The quiet of the woods. The pond over my right shoulder reflects the fading sky as well as the rusty and thinning foliage that surrounds it. The sky itself is the kind of powder blue gray you only see near sunset on the coast after summer’s humidity has been banished ’til next year. There is a surprising chill on my hands. Surprising in that only an hour before I was worried that I might be overdressed.
I am resigned at this point that there will be no deer today, but I am at peace. I continue to sit in my tree stand a few minutes longer than I should, such a spell should not be broken lightly.
The light slowly fades and the chill on my hands has spread to my cheeks. The reds and oranges are now barely reflected on the pond and I know that it is time to go. But I hang on for just one more minute to take it all in.
I descend from my perch and start hiking back to the car. I am overwhelmed with a sense of loss and finality and that melancholy that I spoke of earlier. Autumn does that for me. It always reminds me that this life ends. The promise of resurrection, like spring, is always there. But at this moment there is only ending.
I say a quick prayer of thanks. I know for me that this season is a reminder that I am dust and to dust I will return. It is a miracle that the beauty of autumn can do such a thing.