What a difference a month makes!
Early October may bring shirt-sleeve afternoons, bumblebees nectaring on lingering coneflowers, a lone hummingbird drinking sugar-water before heading south, and hillsides of still-green oaks. Chicken-of-the-woods fungi thrive on a decaying oak stump, and pure-white puffballs sprout seemingly overnight on the forest floor.
By mid-month, shimmering gold is replacing the greens, and the hardy gentians and asters (and pesky dandelions!) are about the only flowers still in bloom.
Oh, almost forgot the witch hazel – the uncommon shrub whose dainty yellow flowers bloom just as the leaves also turn yellow. Fields of goldenrod have turned dusky-brown, although the clumps of big and little bluestem and Indiangrass glow a warm purple in the morning sun.
No better time for a hike in the woods than October, when fallen leaves crunch, and still-hanging leaves paint crimson-orange-bronze-purple on the hillsides.
Then come the October winds, a series of cold fronts, and crisp, clear nights.
By next morning, the garden green beans and zucchini have turned limp and brown – and the puzzled robins and goldfinches are ice-skating on the birdbath.
The last turkey vultures apparently caught a ride southward on the north winds, but those same breezes may have carried the first pine siskin to our feeder – along with the sharp-shinned hawk that now patrols our yard.
Deer have donned their winter-gray coats, and have temporarily lost their wariness as the rut approaches.
This month may keep you guessing. Will it be hot or cold, bright or drab, clear or hazy? But perhaps we need those ups and downs, hots and colds, brights and drabs for our bodies – and minds – to adjust from summer to winter. Ah, the joys of October!