These November woods are nut brown and gray, as oak and beech take over where maple leaves off. The children and I went walking this afternoon, relishing our extra hour of rest but aware as well that the precious daylight would now fade all the sooner. We wandered through the everdusk of hemlocks and the bare-limbed hardwoods along an oxbow of the Housatonic. We clambered over marble cobbles and marveled at the whorls of maidenhair in each and every crevasse. We sat in stillness and heard crows in the pines and geese above the cornfields and the wind stirring the tattered leaves.
The autumn fields were rank with rustling goldenrod, milkweed pods in downy profusion, asters gone to seed. Few birds remain in the undergrowth, save the chickadees that as a child I learned must eat three times their body weight every day to survive in winter, and a hairy woodpecker at work on a standing snag. The scudding clouds might have told of coming snow had the temperature not been in the low 50s, but soon there will be frost that does not leave the ground with the rising sun, and ice will gird the shoreline of pond and forest pool.
There is magic in these November woods, exploring them through the eyes of children. We poke at scat to see who had whom for dinner. We cannot cross a footbridge without stopping to pantomime goats and troll. We compare the gnawed and girdled trunks where beavers have been busy to see which are evidence of more recent activity. At the base of an enormous cottonwood with a healed lightning scar we find a cave big enough for two, and further progress ceases while the urge to den predominates.
All the while I remember walks of my own, my little hand secure in one larger, my short legs taking two steps for every one of my parents'. And I know that just as sure and growth and decay in the forest, with parent and child it all comes around again.