For the last few weeks, a careful eye could spot the gossip girl of the forest, her blazing yellow leaves, tucked among the others’ quiet shades of green, whispering the secret: fall is nigh.

On Friday, I drove over the Going-to-the-Sun Road, en route to a delightful wedding on Lake McDonald, and noticed that the understory was starting to flap its lips, too.

By Sunday evening, on my return trip, the truth was out: fall is here.  The larches are beginning to blaze in brilliant color.  The crows are flocking up.  The horses’ coats seem to have doubled overnight.  The garden is starting to look like it pulled an all nighter, and begs to be put to bed.  The grizzlies are in hyperphasia now, and I’m a bit more cautious when I see them, or their calling cards:

And there are the intangible differences, too.  The light slants, and afternoon is slipping so quickly now into evening.  The Big Sky is that vibrant shade of cornflower-sunflower-September blue, the shade that looks just right against the larches and the aspen going golden.  At night, I leave only an inch or so of the windows cracked, and I can smell fall’s double edgedness in the wind: the life contained in summer’s last gasp, and death on its way.

The snowberries abound even as the cow parsnip finally lays down.  The bees are stripped of their honey supers, though still they fly on lovely afternoons, stretching their wings and preparing for winter.  Frost crackles under the dogs’ feet in the dawn hours, and Maggie Rose re-learns about jackets and hats on early walks.

Honeydew’s eyes glimmer in the changing angle of the late afternoon sun, and I see myself reflected back in his eyes, just as I see that another year has flown by for us.  The lines around his eyes have deepened during the summer of making decisions: where to put the bees, when to sell the honey, how to keep all of the balls in the air.

My hair has grown longer, and motherhood has of course changed the girl he married, though we were both too tired last fall, in Maggie’s infancy, to really see that.  I am calmer and stronger and braver, and yet simultaneously more afraid of the cold world.  It has a lot more to take from me, in these changing days.

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