|Signs of fall in the 501|
|Monday, 24 October 2016|
Story and photos
A new season is creeping into the 501 and replacing the summer’s green with the colors of fall. In every town, there is that first tree that always announces that fall is on its way with the changing of its leaves. If it is not a tree, then it is the arrival of chrysanthemums, hay bales, cornstalks and pumpkins at the local supermarket or gardening store. Ornamentation on neighborhood front porches changes from ferns and potted plants to wreaths that are graced with orange, yellow and burnt red décor. Gourds, root vegetables, sweet potatoes and apples replace the summer vegetables at the farmer’s market or at the roadside stand.
As a little girl, I remember fall was the time of year for a new box of crayons, pencils, pens and notebooks. To this day, I treat myself to a new spiral notebook and pens when the big box stores bring out back to school supplies. Now my new “back to school” supplies aren’t used for lessons, but for jotting down ideas for stories, photographs and the endless to-do list.
Fall kicks off the excitement of high school and college football season. Fair time and parades start to occur across the 501 counties. The sounds of marching bands and cheering crowds are heard every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. County schools and other organizations will have their annual fall festivals and crown kings and queens. Churches will have fall celebrations emphasizing the bounty and the harvest that our nation affords us. Out in the country, the smell of burning leaves and bonfires can be enjoyed.
Moms load up the grocery cart with supplies for caramel apples and s’mores. Soups and chili recipes are brought out of the recipe box and again served as supper fare. Halloween candy wrapped in the colors of the season appears on the shelves of the local grocery store. Coffee shops start serving their annual fall plethora of pumpkin spiced items. Tailgaters grill hot dogs and hamburgers prior to the start of the big game.
The signs of fall can be seen in my closet, too. I replace the flip-flops with boots. The sweaters stored in boxes are removed and made available for easy access. Scarves and long-sleeved shirts replace the T-shirts and shorts.
Activities and nature change this time of year. Walks and hikes become more frequent. Summer’s brutal heat has kept us confined, but with cooler temperatures we are able to get out and enjoy the 501. We get to see the morning mist rising up off of the lake at Petit Jean and the patchwork quilt appearance of yellow and orange trees on the mountains and forests of Van Buren County. Sunday afternoons can now be spent driving and picnicking in the Ouachita National Forest.
Reflections of autumn’s colors make every creek, stream, river and lake look like an oil painting in the late afternoon sun. Sunsets become more golden with little cloud cover. Nights are longer, clearer and the size of the moon is even larger in appearance.
Migrating birds start their trip across our part of the country. Birds only seen in the northern part of our country may stop and shelter in our area for a time in our wet-lands. Squirrels, chipmunks and even an occasional bear in the Ozark or Ouachita areas of the 501 can be seen as they store up for the coming shorter days and the colder weather.
Every year I look forward to this time of year when the air cools and the sky turns bright blue as the humidity of summer leaves. Autumn rejuvenates my spirit. It makes me want to replace and renew objects and things in my life. It is time to relish the crisp, cool weather and enjoy the signs of fall in the 501.