It's not raining but there is so much moisture in the air that when you step outside your cheeks are kissed with a fine mist, not cold but cool, and so gentle that you want to tip your head back and drink it in. That mist, imperceptible to the eye when near at hand, gathers in the distance to wreath hilltops and tall trees in scarves of soft dove grey. It seems a living thing, rising wraith-like in streamers from the woods to join the clouds above.
The colours of the landscape are more subdued at this time of year, but they are there still: scarlet rose hips and the crimson branches of the dogwood, delicate huckleberry branches tipped in deep pink, ochre grasses edging the roadsides, and everywhere a million shades of green, from the palest silver green of old-man's-beard lichen hanging from the bare silvered branches of ancient maple trees to the dark blue green of the spruces in the deep forest, all of them rendered more vivid against the grey background of the sky.
The swans are back, standing out in bright white groups among the greens and greys. We watch for them each November and are always delighted by their return. They're one of the joys of winter here, and the first sight of them winging silently above the estuary lifts my heart more surely and simply than any Christmas light or decorated tree might do. They are majestic and, when lit in flight by early morning light or setting sun, nothing short of magical.
The maples and oaks, white-trunked alders, and tall cottonwoods are all bare now, encircled by carpets of fallen leaves not yet returned to the soil. Their branches reach up to the dove grey sky, seeming to grow less solid the higher they reach, turning from pillar, to beam, to filigree.
Once the leaves fall, the small details of the landscape draw my eye. Moss gardens flourish on grey granite outcroppings and wrap tree trunks and branches in inch-thick velvet. Lichen in a thousand different forms flourishes among the moss. Tiny mushrooms pop up overnight, conjuring images of faeries dancing in the morning dew. I find myself pausing again and again on my walks and leaning in; admiring each small frond of fern, each tiny mushroom gill, each jewelled droplet of mist caught on the edges of the grass.
I return home from my walks with fewer things in my foraging basket at this time of year, but with a full heart and a calm spirit. I am often soaked to the skin and always grateful our warm home, dry clothes, and a cup of hot tea around which to warm my fingers.
I curl up on the couch and review the sights of the day, often getting out pencils and paper to capture images from my walk while they're still fresh in my mind. Then, with appreciation for the gifts of the day, I stir myself to begin my chores.
Whatever the weather where you are, and whatever this Monday brings you, I hope you are able to find a few small moments to gather your gifts around you. Enjoy them with a grateful heart.
Have a joyful day.