The purple asters and golden rods bring on the feel of a cheer. My own high school and college colors were purple and gold, and this time of year, their royal shades remind me of that giddy feel of excitement, the beginning of the new school year and rooting for the home team. Add to that the maroon of the grey dogwoods and the scarlet Virginia creeper, the first to hint at fall’s glorious palette, on a crisp, sunshiny, blue-sky day, and what happens is the overwhelming need to be outdoors.
A seasonal road is a good place to be this time of year. White-tail deer are likely to jump out in front of you and bound away with tails waving like white flags, not in surrender, but more like the drop of a lady’s handkerchief fluttering down asking to be retrieved, designed for attention. Squirrels and chipmunks will speed across the road at a clip to stagger the imagination. Every creature seems in a big hurry.
One of my favorite seasonal roads, Ford Road in the Pulteney Highlands becomes a medieval cathedral. Light filters through the trees as if from stain glass windows, the bright gilded yellow from locust, the crimson maples, the rusty-rose white oaks, the golden hickories. Along the roadside where sunlight penetrates the canopy and touches the ground, patches of butter and eggs known as toadflax (Linaria vulgaris) become the sun’s paint splotches. The flowers are similar to snap dragons with egg-yolk yellow and creamy hinged petals.
The corn fields rustle in the breeze like brown wrapping paper and in the green alfalfa fields, gangs of crows hang out. Pairs of cabbage white butterflies punctuate the road with flutter. Perhaps something in us recognizes the urgency of time, perhaps how little we have of it and we must seize the moment, get out and watch the changing of the guards.
Mary A. Hood is professor emerita at the University of West Florida. She has published several collections of poetry, general articles on conservation and the environment, and numerous scientific articles in the field of microbial ecology. In addition, she is the author of The Strangler Fig and Other Tales: Field Notes of a Conservationist and Rivertime: Ecotravel on the World’s Rivers. Her most recent book, Walking Seasonal Roads, was published in May of 2012 by Syracuse University Press.