With last week’s hard frost, our dahlia season has come to an end. But what a season. After a slow start, they really started rolling in late August, and picked up steam as autumn progressed. As you can see in this picture taken just a couple of weeks ago, the flowers kept getting bigger and brighter as the days grew colder and grayer.
I’m going to miss seeing the dahlias brightening the farm and our kitchen, not to mention sharing them with friends and customers. But I’m already looking forward to their return next summer.
As big leaf maples light up the forest around our house and the days feel suddenly shorter, I always start thinking about silver salmon. Sure, we catch them all through summer out on the Sound or in the ocean, but this is different. This is the season when big northern silvers pour into rivers throughout the Pacific Northwest, a season I always equate with these fish.
It might be because the first big fish I ever caught on a fly rod was a silver, taken from a small creek on the Oregon coast when I was ten years old. Or all the subsequent days I spent through my youth, out in the crisp autumn air, chasing silvers. When I hear that rustling sound of huge maple leaves tumbling down through branches, or smell the sweet scent of wet alders, it brings me right back to those days.
Of course, it could also be because these fish enter the rivers in peak condition, with deep red flesh and layers of delicious fat. And silvers freeze better, in my opinion, than the more typically prized kings. But you have to get them quickly–a week or two in freshwater and they become mere shadows of their former selves, depleted in the service of reproduction. And soon after that, they will spawn, and then die, their bodies providing nutrients for the next generation. Like the blazing maple leaves and chanterelles, silvers are a perfect symbol of a season that always passes too quickly.
Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed signs of heavy weather coming? I’m not sure what this means, but the Douglas squirrels around our house are working with much greater urgency than usual, even for this time of year. The pair that lives at the head of our driveway seem to be in constant motion, hauling fir cones up and down trees, digging new stash holes, packing food away with manic intensity. Between hauling trips, they pause only to tear apart fir cones, stuff their faces, then dive back into work. It’s fun to watch, but also makes me wonder about what they might know.
Of course, we’re in the midst of a gorgeous Indian summer here–93 degrees yesterday, warmest day of the year–so winter seems too distant to even consider.
Still, those squirrels sure seem to know something. Guess we’ll have to check back on this post, say, in April, to know if the squirrels were right. But it can’t hurt to be prepared. And on that note, I better go stack some more firewood.