As I write these words, the wind outside my window blows with a coldness not seen for many months. Apples which have been fattening in a summer that seemed perfect for them are tumbling to the ground, or into the river, showing me it's time to let go.
After the equinox, when fall is officially here, we must learn to let go of a lot of things up here in the north woods. One of these things is the length of our sunlit days. All summer long we've enjoyed the luxury of early-morning and after-dinner light, ready to illuminate our paths and trails , giving us that extra time we so enjoy in the woods. Now night is growing longer, and days are growing shorter. We just have to learn to let it go, every year.
Goodbye to the hummingbirds
Another thing I've had to let go of is the time I spent watching hummingbirds. This year I had three feeders and an endless stream of fascinating activity to observe. In late August, the ruby-throated males left, all on one day. The females lingered on, fattening themselves to two to three times their summer body weight in order to have enough energy for their turn at migration. Then one day, sometime around the third week of September, they vanish, too. Time comes to wash out the feeders and put them away until next April or May.
Mowing the lawn is another activity I let go of this time of year. Sure, on one last warm-enough day we can start the mower and trim the grasses one last time, but then it's time to put the machine away, and let Mother Nature tend to the lawns. I love mowing lawns. I think about it and miss it all winter long.
Wearing shorts, tank tops and flip-flops is something else I must learn to let go of after the equinox. I keep the footwear by my bed and can flip-flop around the house in them all winter if I want, but once we head outdoors, most feet ask to be covered, fearing snow or frostbite, I think. Feet that have been unencumbered since May need to be retrained for living in shoes and boots for the next seven or eight months.
Goodbye to the gardens
Letting go of the garden is another wistful reminder of the "drawing-in" we do this time of year. Instead of weeding and harvesting, we look at pulling out the fading plants and putting the garden to rest for the winter. If we haven't finished our canning and freezing projects, we will. Then it's time to let go of the garden until next spring.
We let go of wide-open windows this time of year, too. Not all of the windows need to be closed, but most do. I always keep at least one open a crack so I can hear the birds and river noises, but once our woodstove is on, doing its job, we aim to keep its warmth inside where we can move about comfortably without a few of our protective layers of clothes.
Although the windows are mostly closed, or perhaps because of them being mostly closed, many able-bodied Adirondackers wash their windows before the snow flies, allowing what limited light we do receive to hit our floors and houseplants brightly.
Prepping for what comes next
Like the trees letting go of their leaves, Adirondackers learn to let go of a lot of what happens so easily all summer long. Good-bye to farmer's markets, late afternoon kayak rides and spontaneous camping trips ... at least for a while. Of course, autumn offers us a grand variety of activities, with colorful jaunts in the woods, cider making, canning tomatoes and getting out to hunting camp being at the top of many lists. Tightening up the house for winter, finishing yard chores, planting bulbs, and mulching flower beds are among the things we focus on. So much to do, such a short season before the snow flies.
But it's the letting go I've been noticing, the acceptance that summer is over, and learning to roll with the colder air, and really observing that the color green on the mountainsides is vanishing, and all the other colors are coming, red, orange, gold, yellow, all ready to cheer us on. Our cheeks get rosy, and our jackets get worn in this new season. Air is fresh, trees are singing songs, and we gather around warm hearths with friends as we take note of what we've let go of, and hunker down for all that comes next.
Randy Lewis lives in Paul Smiths and is the author of "Actively Adirondack: Reflections of Mountain Life in the 21st Century," Adirondack Center for Writing's People's Choice Award for Best Book 2007.