The other day I went to sit on my back deck and found myself ankle-deep in leaves.
This should not have come as a surprise. It's October, and the ash tree that arches over the house sheds early.
But summer warmth has lingered this year, and I had yet to stop my routine of heading outside in the afternoon with a cup of tea and my dog, Quinn.
The sight of the mess was daunting. The last thing I wanted to do after a long day at work was deal with leaves.
So I sighed as I picked up my broom. But before I started sweeping, I paused to think about last spring. For days, I watched from a window as the backyard came alive. The bird feeders were busy with cardinals, chickadees, and sparrows. Blue jays chattered in the pear tree, and a woodpecker nipped at the suet. Squirrels ran busily about.
Finally, it was my turn to join them outside. But as I emerged from the house, all activity stopped in a flutter of wings and disgruntled squirrel squeaks.
As I sipped my tea, some of the birds returned. But I felt as though a line had been crossed. I had entered the scene and changed it.
All summer, I was one with my yard. I sat on my deck to eat breakfast and then to enjoy a late-day break. Before dinner I picked beans or tomatoes, or cut sprigs of rosemary. Later, I sat on the front porch. I tended to my garden in my bare feet and gathered blueberries for my cereal in my pajamas.
I kept feeding the birds and enjoyed watching bees and butterflies flitting among the many plants I'd grown for them, but there was no denying I had an attitude: My yard was an extension of my house.
Soon enough, however, the mornings grew too cold for alfresco breakfasts. The sun began setting before the dinner dishes were done. I tried to hang onto summer and revel in unseasonably balmy days. But even I could not deny the evidence of fall when I stepped right into it.
Oh, I tried for a moment. My deck days over? No way! I'll just get rid of those leaves – and what? Bring back July?
I had listened to Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" to mark the equinox. My "Autumn" banner hung proudly on the front porch. Pumpkins and maize were in their places. I knew what it all meant: Nature was ready to reclaim its space.
I put the broom aside and surrendered to the season.