Contemplating a New Season of Beginnings and Endings

Fall is already well started here in Lewis County. Foggy mornings, late sunrises and the drip, drip, drip of heavy, falling dew mark the end of our summer and the beginning of a downward spiral that will lead us, eventually and inevitably, into the depths of winter.
There is an excitement that arises from within as each new season begins.
But as I stop to contemplate the next season’s gifts and beauties, there lies, just beneath a happy heart filled with optimism, a pulling dread of this season’s coming worries and woes.
Last week, I prayed for rain, I even tried to gather the dog people who were camping in my backyard together for a rain dance, but they weren’t interested. My farm well has been running so low that I have been eating sandwiches off of paper towels to save dishwater and staying home to save on bathwater.
This weekend my prayers were answered — to excess.
The only thing we can count on, they say, is change.
As I sat on my back porch Monday morning and watched the sun rise, I could see the long road ahead — a view I did not have at this time last year. But due to the diligence of my eldest son, who has spent his summer battling the blackberry bushes and thistles that grew beneath the ancient apple trees, I can now watch the school buses as they crest the hill and make their way past my home.
I remember that I had worried, as he carried the vines and brambles away. I worried about the changes he was making to the landscape. Would the elk still visit my orchard in the fall to gather up the fallen apples without the concealing comfort of cover?
And now I know the answer. Yes, they still visit. If I am up late enough or if I rise before the sun, I can hear them in the darkness.
They no longer bed down in the safety of my formerly scraggly orchard, hidden from the view and headlight glare of log trucks, school buses and early risers on their way to work. But they still pass through and eat apples discarded from branches and scattered along the ground.
I am saddened at the thought that I will no longer awake to the bugle call of a bull elk outside my bedroom window. I have often bragged about my wild elk alarm clock. I particularly enjoyed bragging to the camouflage-clad, cold and (for the moment) defeated hunters I would meet at the gas station on my way to work.
“Where do you live?” they would ask when I would tell them of the elk in my backyard.
I’d flash a secretive, superior smile in answer, and climb back into my warm car, comforted by the knowledge that my elk herd was safe from predation for yet another day.
I had always felt as though they were my herd, but, of course, they never were.
Yes, the one lasting and eternal fact of life is change. People die or move away, trees grow and are cut down, seasons come and seasons go — nothing ever stays the same.
But we have a choice, we can stand as helpless foes to change, or we can become champions and cheerleaders to change. We can take ownership and responsibility for our part in the growth and changes in our community and facilitate change for the better.
Fall marks the beginning of another school year and the ending of a bounteous summer. It is the season of harvest. The turning of the leaves, the rain and the chilling breezes foretell the killing frost will soon come and sweep away all but the memory of summer.
We can either view those changes with an eye of curiosity, looking forward to new the discoveries that will eventually unfold before us, or we can rail against them to no avail.
Who will you be on Saturday, the day after the first day of autumn and National Public Lands Day? A champion and cheerleader? Or a crotchety, old complainer?
I suspect I will be both.
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Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer who enjoys watching and photographing the wildlife in her own backyard in Cinebar.  Visit her wildlife and outdoor encounters photography blog, The (Almost) Daily Bird, at http://blogs.chronline.com/dailybird. Contact her via email at kz@tds.net or call 269-5017 to share unusual wildlife observations, or to discuss upcoming events and topics you would like to see covered in The Chronicle Outdoors section.