Experiencing the majesty of Indian Summer

Published 11:28 am Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Meandering down one of our less traveled byways yesterday afternoon, the showy clusters of purple blossoms atop tall Joe Pye weeds and fast ripening “plumes” of sumac berries were everywhere.
Drifting down to join them at ground level were yellow and brown-tinged tulip poplar leaves, racing with a few red ones from tall dogwoods.
“It’s the beginning of Indian Summer,” I thought, as my mind raced back in time to recall decades of other colorful ones (I am in my 70s, you know).
Nowhere in the world is there a more profound massing of multi-colored hues in autumn as those in the Southern Blue Ridge Escarpment mountains and foothills.
And Dark Corner is the place to find every one of those vivid colors… all in one small area.
Joining the leafy colors are wild fruits and berries­ — acorns, hickory nuts, mulberries and persimmons — that will provide winter sustenance for small game.
An industrious pair of squirrels were already gathering and storing off the road shoulder as I passed by.
Falling golden leaves of the few remaining black walnut trees indicate that it won’t be long until the large, green covered shells will fall to the ground, turn black and shrivel. Only then will the shells be ready for cracking to reveal the distinctive shape and taste of the nuts.
Bitter persimmons are purely for small game at this time. It takes the first frost of autumn to tinge the fruit to make its pulp sweet to human taste.
All of these mental vignettes reminded me of a poem I wrote many years ago to herald this time of year. I share it here.

Indian Summer…
A Closer Look
Bright yellow daisies in haphazard rows
compete with majestic goldenrod plumes
in wild abandon along winding roadways,
to herald the arrival of Indian Summer
in the Dark Corner.
Crimson sumac berries reach ripening maturity
as they did hundreds of years ago
when our Cherokee brothers made tea
from their succulent juices,
and gave us precedent for pink lemonade.
Deep purple poke berries bedeck the plant
whose roots give medicinal aid,
and fragrant honeysuckle blossoms
rush to fill the air with their final sweetness
before slumbering through a winter’s cold.
These harbingers of Autumn
stand in silent testimony
to the omnipotence of the Creator,
who has decreed—with infinite wisdom—
a time and place for all seasons.

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