Yesterday was one of those crisp September mornings you could bite into like a perfectly ripe Macintosh apple. My youngest son, having started first grade the day before, was off for the Jewish New Year holiday. It was too good an opportunity to miss. We grabbed our cameras and headed out to our local stretch of the Appalachian Trail.
Our first leg of the trail runs alongside a dry summer meadow filled with purple aster and golden rod. My son marveled at the insect orchestra. I pointed out the different pitches and rhythms of the grasshoppers and crickets. We watched goldfinches flitting from seed head to seed head, stuffing their beaks. Trios of cabbage white butterflies danced around a mud puddle. A monarch flapped and drifted, seeking out the last flowering heads of milkweed. The air was sweet with the scent of virgin’s bower, the native wild clematis.
When we reached the woodland, the dirt path was packed, dry clay. But pushing up through the leaf mold, we spied several species of toadstool. When I told Milo about the extensive mycelium network that spreads underground from a mushroom colony, his imagination ran riot. He began inventing Rube Goldberg machines powered by mushrooms that sent secret messages down these connecting tubes.
We reached the boardwalk over the marshes and marveled at the variety of late summer flowers—turtleheads, purple loosestrife, jewelweed, bursting pods of milkweed fluff. At the suspension bridge we gazed down into the slow moving depths of the Pochuck Creek, looking for small trout. I think the herons had got there before us, but we did find an owl pellet stuffed with hair and delicate mouse bones.
As we walked back through the woods, it dawned on me that at exactly this spot, six years ago, it had finally sunk in that I was going to have a baby—my youngest son. At 41, with two almost teens, the thought of another baby had been far from my mind. And yet, here he is, six years later, my late summer golden moment. What a gift.