“There was a large ash tree at the entrance to the rectory lane that would be completely yellow by November. One autumn the leaves remained on it longer than usual. But there came a great frost one night, and the following day, as the sun rose, the leaves began to fall. They continued to fall for hours until the tree was like a golden fountain playing silently in the sun; I shall never forget it.”
“Where the trees thicken into a wood, the fragrance of the wet earth and rotting leaves kicked up by the horses’ hoofs fills my soul with delight. I particularly love that smell, — it brings before me the entire benevolence of Nature, for ever working death and decay, so piteous in themselves, into the means of fresh life and glory, and sending up sweet odours as she works.”
―Elizabeth von Arnim, Elizabeth and Her German Garden
It was in the fall that my late husband and I once visited the Hoh Forest, on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. That is where I took this picture, and where I obsessed about how to describe the fragrance that was of the same sort as what von Arnim loves. The climate is very different, between the Hoh and Germany, and no doubt every locale’s casserole of rotting things, combined with the humidity and who knows what else, makes for a sensory experience unique to each place. If a dog or a horse is alongside you or under you, kicking up the stuff, its scent would be included in the recipe. Though I typically have only my two feet to walk with through woodsy places, these thoughts and memories are making me look forward to some autumn outings.
Living in retirement beyond the World,
Silently enjoying isolation,
I pull the rope of my door tighter
And stuff my window with roots and ferns.
My spirit is tuned to the Spring-season;
At the fall of the year there is autumn in my heart.
Thus imitating cosmic changes
My cottage becomes a Universe.