SEASONAL BALANCING POINT
In how many ways simultaneously can we be at a balancing point in time and space? First and most obviously, the Autumnal Equinox is upon us, one of the four markers of the Great Year, along with the Vernal, or Spring, Equinox and the Summer and Winter Solstices. A truly awesome time, when Day equals Night. Secondly, we find ourselves caught between summer and fall, as the glorious hot season finally gives in (sort of) to the inevitability of autumn.
The surest sign of seasonal change is the
ever-so-gradual change in light. We've slowly transitioned from the longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice to the Autumnal Equinox (9/22), the official first day of Fall.
All beings - plant or animal - are impacted by the alterations in the light around them, which triggers primal reactions to prepare for the coming winter.
While all the attention is focused on animal migration, another form of migration is taking place right in front of us. It is in some ways very subtle and in other ways very "in your face". I'm referring to the "migration-in-place" of the deciduous, hardwood forest -Ash, Beech, Birches, Elm, Hickory, Locust, Maples, Oaks, Sycamore, Tuliptree. This is a truly phenomenal and brilliant (yes, I believe the Forest is smart, dealing in an incredibly long-term and slow fashion with what is nearly impossible for us more ephemeral humans to grasp) adaptation on the part of what we now
know is an immense, multi-faceted, complicated organism. The hardwoods shed their leaves, which then add another layer of insulation for their roots, into which the sap will be drawn down safely under the frost-line. Those same leaves will then break down into soil, further protecting and nurturing the trees' roots. Meanwhile, the barren branches are free to sway in the winter-wind and, not bearing leaves, will not break from the weight of snow. Like I said, brilliant. The exact reason the Northern Temperate Forest changes colors and sheds leaves, versus the Southern Temperate Forest which does not, is not clear but "Fall" may be an ancient northern response to periodic droughts that occurred in the cooler time of year.
... DYNAMIC FAUNA
Whatever happens to plants and trees, in turn influences all of the animals in the forest and fields who shelter on or in them or who feed on them. Avians will no longer have safe spaces in trees for nesting as the trees lose their leaves - one more incentive to migrate. Since the insect-
population is decreasing that means there's less food for birds and rodents and they start planning accordingly, either flying to points south, like the Grackles, Red-wing Blackbirds and others or are starting to build winter-nests and store nuts as Chipmunks and Gray- and Red Squirrels will soon start doing. Many of the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have migrated already, and the Monarch migration is occurring as we speak (see www.journeynorth.org). The largest dragonflies, the Green Darners, still linger, darting here and there, gleaning smaller flying insects, but will also soon migrate to Mexico. Crickets and Katydids, though slowing down, are still entertaining us (Cicadas are now done for this season), as well as the last few Tree-frogs. Some hawks are already southering, (Google "Hawk Watch"} but others will stay. Bald Eagles will probably spend more and more time on the Hudson as the fish in local ponds and streams thin out. Most Ospreys will migrate to Central and South America. At some point, depending on how cold the winter is, the Black- and Turkey Vultures will probably go to southern New Jersey to winter. I've mostly mentioned migrators but numerous creatures - like Coyotes, Coy-wolves (yes), Grey- and Red Foxes, as well as all the local Owls and Wild Turkeys - have adapted to our sometimes harsh winters.
I love this land and all that which inhabits it. I find great peace when in our wild spaces, helping me to learn about myself and to find Peace. We are so
lucky to live in such a wonderful region, where the Wall of Manitou looks over the Mahicannuck - the River That Flows Both Ways. In particular, I'm fond of Waghkonk, the ancient name for the eastern part of the Woodstock Valley, where the Sawkill tumbles out into the larger Hudson Valley. When I write these Notes, I use Waghkonk as a general name for all of Woodstock, the area I've spent 50-odd (and I do mean odd!) years exploring. In doing so, I've discovered what a rich, multilayered area this is, steeped in ancient history and mystery, a place of legends passed down about those who dwell under the shadow of the Holy Mountain, our Overlook. I'm honored to walk these paths, to tread this soil and to share Water with all of you. I look forward to a beautiful Catskills Fall and wish everyone Clear Skies and a Fruitful, Safe Journey on your Path.
Take Care, Dave Holden
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