Woods and water surround our old house, a renovated hunting lodge, on a mountain top. A crunchy dirt road signals my departure from the real world as I turn from the main road. I sigh in relief. The heaviness falls from me. In this hidden wood, a cool green canopy of oaks guard the way. Oaks are the last to dress for fall and in winter: stubborn, brown leaves cling to gray branches.
I round a corner and the large pond comes into view. Maples along the shoreline herald the season. The sun warms this almost autumn day, encouraging leaves to shine, rich colors that flicker in the wind. Sparse clouds allow hazy light to reflect on the pond's surface. As I pull in the driveway, movement catches my eye. Slate blue wings swoop. A heron ascends to circle the pond. I exit my car. The scent of damp decay wafts over me. After a few rounds, the heron splashes down in the marsh across the water. The trees sway in welcome, some already bare in anticipation of winter. A gentle breeze blows warm and fresh, dispelling the dampness. Then suddenly, Bam! Bah-boom, rings like gunfire as acorns pelt my car. I dash from under the tree and trudge uphill to my garden bench. My family and I call early fall plinking season. The oaks won't release their leaves but, happily toss acorns at us.
Pungent wood smoke spirals from the blue house across the road. I hear the drumbeat of a woodpecker and scan the trees for its red head. Bobbing, he makes Swiss cheese of an old tree. I plop down on my wooden bench that rests in front of the tree line, at the edge of the yard. I lean back and survey the scene. Sometimes, in the fall, bald eagles stop and visit, but, not today. Now, only rival gangs of geese squabble over turf, on a layover to southern climes.
I breathe deep to unwind from my day. The lilting tones of wind chimes add to my efforts. I root down into the earth beneath my feet and draw strength from her. I can feel her support. The trees protect my back. Standing nearby is an old friend, an oak named Staunch Member. Often, I have wrapped arms around him and laid a cheek to his rough bark, only to feel anxiety drain from my body. I know this beautiful spirit is my friend. I trust in this natural and unfathomable magic. Nature is my sanctuary, my yard, a great temple of beauty and healing. Another soft wind caresses my face. A yellow leaf floats to my lap. Same wind sends a spree of acorns crashing onto the drive. Startled from my reverie, my mind turns to the sweet-tart taste of a rhubarb pie I bought yesterday. I head into the house. There really is no place like home.