The day seems brighter than lately, though the patio and back yard are awash in damp brown leaves. Our biggest tree is molting onto the lawn, sidewalks, driveway, concrete, and all lawn furniture, in none of those blown-glory splashes of color which grace this time of year.
These are clingy leaves, sticking to chair seats, welcome mats and door-screens, susssshed up into drifted piles in corners and against the stems of hostas, cactus, fern, sifting down into the big balls of lavender mums like drab confetti, and hitching a ride on your feet all through the house.
We're headed out in search of farm stands---the ones we've always looked in on, the new ones sprung up since last Fall, and some of the naked ones passed by all through Summer and Spring, with their promises of Apples and Pumpkins and Gourds and beautiful corn freckled for Autumn. Those faded signs, those deserted premises with vines grown over locks and gates, with weathered tables and slanted platforms ready for baskets of bounty, the lettering of the signs faded to whispers on the wood---I hope they've sprung to life again today.
We'll follow little hand-lettered squares stuck on posts along the road, avid for the PUMPKINS 1 Mile, then 1/2, then the Turn HERE, much as long-ago travelers craned through windshields for the next line of a Burma Shave verse of the welcome welcome of the familiar Holiday Inn star. We'll squint, step out onto gravel or grass or mud, and look at the largesse with the enthusiasm of Spring gardeners peering for green in the Earth.
A touch of smooth squash-skin, the heft of a delicata, the funny whorls and color combinations of a Turk's hat---those speak Fall and crisp sunshine and something cinnamony in the oven. Just one halved acorn squash, its center pooled with melted butter and maple syrup, with a little scatter of cinnamon and nutmeg around the rim---the scent and the knowledge of the preparations---that brings a comfortable presence to a house on a cold day.
Pumpkins---Cider---a warty gourd-no-two-alike---perhaps a small smooth white pumpkin for the graceful white compote; that silhouette and shading is a lovely thing to contemplate for its days of plump roundness, and later dropped to break chunnnck in the far-back garden, a delicacy for the birds and raccoons and the waddly old possum who lives beneath the boat.
Prospects are often far more beautiful than the gleaning, but today, we're ready to see what will come.