So now we’ve had a real frost, and here is October in its full glory: wild with color, light, freshness, and hyperactive squirrels. The maple tree goes red from the top down, like a stoplight for the summer, and the walnut trees wear yellow so bright they clearly stole it from the sun. Then they all throw their leaves, riotously, across the lawn, the garden, the road, or up into the blue brisk air.
We hear an odd noise from somewhere near the garage, the sound of a hard object bouncing off of metal. What can this be? Walking near the garage makes it stop; walk away a bit, and it starts again. Puzzling, I wander out to the garden to gather the last holdout flowers, and turn to look back to the house. I see a pair of small ears poking up out of the gutter over the garage door. I sneak up a little closer, the ears disappear, and the clanging starts again. Small pieces of walnut husk are flying out of the gutter, onto the driveway. Then a small head appears where there were only ears before. It is one of those small red squirrels. He has carried a walnut up there with him, and is bashing it against the metal gutter as a way to husk it for his winter stores.
At first he freezes when he sees me, and runs off. But after a couple of days of this he gets used to me and keeps working in his improvised kitchen, whether I spy on him or not. He has food to process, and no time to fool around.
But I have time. Most of my work in the garden is done. There is, oddly, some summer squash still growing there, and many perennial herbs, but they don’t need much tending. We drive out along the river to the Dexter Cider Mill for hot fresh-pressed apples to sip. The trees toss their leaves into the water and the sky, reflecting each other, and the sky and the water carry them away. The world outside my garden offers a harvest I did not plant. I am happy to take advantage of it.