By Sydney Williams
“Every leaf speaks bliss to me,
fluttering from the autumn tree.”
“Fall, leaves, fall,” Emily Bronte (1818–1848)

Autumn is my favorite time of year, reminding me of Goldilocks’ porridge—in summer we walk in the shade to stay cool; in winter we walk in the sun to stay warm—now, the temperature is just right, so we follow our feet wherever they lead.

Fall is for walking, and among the many attractions in the lower Connecticut River Valley are the numerous and varied trails in the 1,000-acre Preserve, which one can enter from the north via Ingham Hill Road in Essex, where there is public parking.

As a resident of Essex Meadows, a retirement community whose land abuts that of the Preserve, I walk over. Normally, my wife and I go together. On this autumn day, however, I went alone. I crossed the drive and onto the golf course. Near the second pin stands a small Sugar Maple, which was decked out in yellow. Just west was a Red Maple in contrasting red. Squirrels scurried about, cheeks stuffed with nuts and berries. As I walked behind the garages to the back part of the golf course, a few wintering birds made their presence known—possibly White-Throated Sparrows, but not being an expert in such matters, I was not sure. A hawk (possibly a Sharp-shinned Hawk) circled over the mowed grass, looking for mice.

My walk took me through woods, across the back meadow, the one with bent birches, where I picked up a walking stick left a day earlier. The trail rises gently toward the cascade—a grand name for an eight-foot drop and a trickle of water! The trail had been swept of dead leaves, exposing roots, thus making walking safer and easier. At the cascade, I followed the Blue Dot trail south and west, crossed the access road, and made my way to the top of the hill where the power line cuts through. The woods at this time of year are lovely, and being alone gives one the opportunity to think and be thankful for all we have. I am not alone in this feeling of wonder. Quoting a recent Norway study, Teja Pattabhiraman wrote in the Epoch Times that “seeking awe from the splendor of nature can give an outdoor walk even more healthful effects.… When people are primed to experience awe, they feel simultaneously smaller and better.”

Returning down the access road, I left my walking stick camouflaged against a small tree. As I walked through the meadow just beyond the garden, a garter snake slithered out of my way—more startled, I am sure, than was I. Crossing the little stream that becomes the Mud River, I stopped to look down, marveling at the number of creatures that make this place home. That rivulet flows through the Mud River Swamp, before making its way to the Fall River, thence to the Connecticut and then to the sea.

In the fall, much of nature, like some of our neighbors, pack for the winter. Much of plant life retires into the ground; insects and small organisms prepare for the cold. Turtles and frogs bury into the muck. Small mammals prepare to hibernate. I head home to a hot chocolate!

Sitting by our fireplace, I nurse a hot chocolate, thankful to be alive in this season, to live in New England and especially in Connecticut, with its autumn offerings that soothe and affirm life.

Image Credits: John Burk (Berkshires in fall). Getty Images/Matveev_Aleksandr (fall leaves).

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