Winter Is Sliding Into Place

Although the weather is still quite pleasant and the colors are incredible, fresh snow on the mountains and fresh mud on the road bring to mind the changing seasons. I have no cause for complaint (as if I ever do), however, because we have just finished enjoying the most incredible Indian Summer of our sojourn here at Elk Lake.

Day after day of warm temperatures and glassy waters. Night after night of frost on the pumpkin (well, around here it's the ATV seat). Day after day of brilliant color everywhere you turn your gaze. Incredible!

But the last few days have brought change on the wind. More leaves on the ground. More snow on the mountains. And, as is inevitable this time of year, more mud on the roads - well, from the looks of my rig, more mud on my vehicle!

Nonetheless, the beauty and serenity at Elk Lake only increase this time of year. Fewer people are around. Many animals and birds are leaving, but many remain. And, those that remain can be more vocal - maybe rounding up the troops for the trip south?

Speaking of vocal - have you ever really thought about the 'sounds' of nature? I've talked several times about the intense quiet which can envelop our world up here. However, as the days shorten, my daily walks become more like 'weels'. What's a weel? It's a walk in the dark (or semi-dark) which has me feeling my way along at times.

Obviously there isn't much to see on one of my semi-dark walks. So, I've found increased use for another sense common to man - my hearing. It's amazing what is happening in the wild kingdom as the morning approaches.

Some days it's like a vacume has swallowed up all sound. Nothing stirs. Nothing peeps.

Other days it's amazing to listen as the first tentative voices grow in volume and more voices join the chorus. In the last few weeks I've heard elk bugling, wolves howling, cows lowing (or mooing), a horse nicker (that one had me going - who on earth was riding this far in that early
in the morning?), an owl hooting, geese honking, ducks flapping and quaking, and small birds twittering.

Sometimes I wonder how much we really catch. It really isn't about what we miss - that is gone - it's about what we catch. I fear we manage to grasp far too little as we scurry from one thing to the next until the end of our days. However, as always, I am amazed at the wonder just outside
my door - and I'm ever thankful to be the,

Lady of the Lake


Fall's Hand in The Paint Pot

I can remember listening as a child to my father talking about fall. He'd speak of the season's colors and the magical changes which occurred that time of year. I couldn't see it. Of course, it didn't help I lived in a place where the summer sun scorched things to a dull brown long before fall's colors arrived. Thus, to my eyes, a few more things 'dying' wasn't lovely. It was tragic!

Funny how perspectives change. My perspectives on fall changed when we moved to a bit wetter climate. One where you could enjoy the colors of fall against a moderately green backdrop. As the years passed I found I'd adopted my father's ideas. Of course, it took me many more years (and a move to yet another climate zone) to appreciate the beauty of spring. But, that's a different subject, maybe one to be covered say, next April or May!

But, before continuing on this 'fall' theme, I can't resist sharing my musings on another perspective. Quiet! At Elk Lake, one of the things I treasure is the quiet. To some of our guests, it can be almost unnerving. Some relish it with the same intensity as I. Others, well, they really don't hear it. They think they do, but it isn't hard to tell they really don't.

What makes their lack of understanding so obvious? The statement - "It's quiet where I live too" (and they've all ready said they live in '......' town). I just smile and scratch my head. Sure. Whatever.

It's all in your perspective! Have you ever stood outside your front door and really listened? I mean, do NOTHING, just listen. What can you hear? Well, if you live in ANY place where there are other people, no matter how few, you can probably hear (at least) a dog barking, a lawnmower, a door slamming, a radio, a motor reving, a shout or laugh or bits of conversation floating on the breeze. It's natural. We do not exist without making noise. Nor should we expect to.

But, when you come to someplace this remote, you lose all of that. Five minutes up Narrows Creek, I'm guaranteed NO sounds but the wind in the trees, the bird's chirping nearby, and, if I'm lucky the voice of some other more rare critter. That's normal for here. In fact, this time of year, stepping out on my deck often provides the same.

So, when someone tells me it's quiet where they live too (and they live anywhere 'normal'), I know immediately we don't have the same perspective - AND - we don't 'hear' the same either.

Off my soap box - back to the fall's beauty. As I've learned more about the plants growing in my backyard, I've also made the 'duh' realization they don't look the same all year. Most of the photos I've shared were taken in the late spring and early summer. Plants in full bloom. However, this is just a short portion of their life-cycle. Thus, I've also been trying to identify these same plants as they make their transition into fall (although some are already long gone).

For example, Sticky Gernamium. Although the pretty purple flowers are a delight to view throughout much of summer, the geranium leaves add a delightful brilliant red to our fall landscape. Wood's Rose also adds brilliant red color splashes to the varigated fall yellows. And, the rose hips aren't the only contributors. The foliage turns a brilliant red which accentuates the beautifully shaped leaves (something I didn't notice when I photographed the summer flowers).

Then there is the Serviceberry. Keeping to its tradition of looking much like a small aspen, its leaves also turn a beautiful shade of yellow this time of year. Even more impressive are the Goozeberries. Their leaf shaped, combined with their moderate height and their brilliant red foliage remind me of a Cascade Oregon mountain favoriate - Viney Maple. Even the Rabbitbrush contributes a 'different' kind of beauty to fall - with puffy white seed heads covering a large bush, they can be quite impressive!

Of course I'm an obvious aspen lover - I love the way they look, spring, summer, fall, or winter. However, I must admit when they put on their showy fall display of reds and yellows, I fall in love all over again!

Not to be left out, the willows, although one of the last to join the color parade, add some lovely shades of yellow after serving as a green backdrop to the quicker-to-show-off aspens.

So, have you identified which of the plants listed above are shown in this blog?

And so, the magical fall play enters the second act. And, although the animals are still not as visible as I'd like, they're are getting more vocal. In fact, a few mornings ago I heard wolves howling - only the second time ever since moving to Montana's mountains. I must admit, as irritated as I get over the lack of wolf management, I still thrill to hear them nearby. Of course, the elk didn't appreciate it as much. They've been silent ever since!

From my perspective - there is nothing but delight to be had from fall's colors and sounds on display in my backyard!

Lady of the Lake