The garden still looks lovely, even with so many of the plants taken out or waiting for a hard frost, when I’ll trim them back. Dormant then, they won’t notice. I can’t bear to pull out the (annual) tropical Lantana just yet! It’s huge now and colorful, displaying red, orange and yellow flowers so beautiful, so perfect that they take my breath away.
They’ll die with the first frost, of course.
The Kousa dogwood trees’ bright red quarter-sized seed balls hang in lush profusion, giving both of them a festive look. Nearby, the lush Boston ivy’s rich red, coral, yellow and green leaves drape the high garden walls. What a glorious portrait!
Today, even Bryn-dog was, literally, the very picture of autumnal cheer. Here’s how it happened.
A gaggle of noisy, very young children were out for a walk with their adult caregivers in the lovely fall afternoon. Their small feet kicked bright, crunchy leaves into little heaps while other tiny hands tossed them into the cool air. Bryn and I were meandering slowly along the wide sidewalk toward them, when abruptly two of the little ones looked up, spotted Bryn and shrank back in fear. My 53-pound dog wagged her tail once, then sniffed the air, probably picking up the distress that radiated from those two small bodies.
“Hi!” I called out cheerfully. “Want to pat Bryn? She feels soft and cuddly. She’s a really smart doggie, too, and loves children. Watch this.” I turned to Bryn; our eyes met, and I signaled with the palm of my hand. Plunk. She sat.
“Oohh...”said a youngster, softly, impressed. “Does she bite?”
I grinned. “Only her dinner.”
That earned a laugh from an adult.
“But she does shake hands. Who wants to be first to say hello?”
A little girl with pink ribbon decorating her dark hair said, softly “Let me...”
She edged to the front of the group, lowered herself, and tentatively reached out. Bryn nosed her palm and raised her paw. They shook. Most of the children grinned and gathered around to introduce themselves to her, but those two little boys remained a safe distance away, definitely not even a little convinced.
Ha! Time to replace fear with curiosity. I’d tap into every child’s enjoyment of painting with bright colors. Today, though, we’d use the multicolored ‘props’ scattered all over the ground instead.
I turned to them.
“Bryn likes to look nice. In winter she collects shiny white balls of ice in her beard and on her tail, and in fall she likes to wear colored leaves. Check out my ‘pretend’ paint job...”
I beckoned to Bryn to stand up again, but to stay anchored, then I looked around, spotted a colorful, semi-dried leaf, plucked it up and let it fall delicately onto her head. That red, orange and faded green foliage really brightened up her curly brown crown. Smiling, I dribbled another mostly dried leaf onto her white plumed tail, where it hung, cockeyed. (Her fleecy fur, like Velcro, happily snags dried leaves... Sometimes, though, she’ll ask me to disentangle those that dangle from her rear end after she sits amid leaves in the dog park. They drive her nuts when she walks.)
The two cowering boys gaped in astonishment and pointed. “Look! She likes it!”
The others cheered.
“I call this ‘doggie painting.’ Wanna try? Pick one or two pretty leaves. Remember: good painters take their time and decorate juusst. so.”
I artfully added one more leaf to Brynie’s back and stepped back to admire her. That did it! The younger boys took their forefingers out of their mouths and dashed to the grass with the others to make their selections.
They showed them to me hopefully.
“Is this one good enough?”
I shrugged. “Try it. If Brynie likes it, she’ll wear it. Sometimes, if she doesn’t like what I pick she’ll shake it off, and so I get to try another one that she might like better...”
(I knew Bryn wouldn’t shake them off. She enjoys little ones, and doesn’t mind them rumpling or tweaking her, having a ‘sense’ of these things...
But, just in case it happened, I wanted no hurt feelings.)
They rushed over and laid their offerings on Bryn’s curvy tail. Umm. They did look lovely there. The boys beamed. She stood, tail still, unruffled, the soul of patience. I gently married another fat leaf to her leg feathers. Wow! We had quite the ‘autumn dog’ now. The children had placed leaves gently on her side, and even let one hang off one floppy ear. All spontaneously applauded. This area had become a ‘no fear zone,’ by golly.
After a bit we said our goodbyes and walked on (with Bryn still wearing her decorations). Ahead we noticed a homeowner collecting an armful of round, plum-sized green walnuts, which he piled at the foot of his stairs. I commented; he laughed and said, “I can’t mow smoothly when these darn things litter the lawn, so I pile ‘em up and the squirrels snatch ‘em to take to their lairs. My dad used to say that the quicker the pile vanishes the quicker winter will come. He might be right. I gathered quite a few a week ago, and there were none left after three days. Autumn has come more quickly this year, I think. Maybe the animals sense that winter will roar in in November, and so are eager to store as much food as possible.”
We both moaned; it’ll be sad to see this splendid, lengthy autumn slide into ice and windy snow, though I do love the white stuff. Ah, well. Nothing lasts.
Almost home now I kept glancing at my dog, resplendent in her coat of many colors. I looked- dowdy -by comparison! And, so, just like that, I dropped to the ground and rolled down the leaf-filled hill into Hannah Park. Bryn followed, delighted. My hair and fleecy jacket were dressed in a vivid collage of bright leaves! Ahh, I thought, with a rueful smile; it’d take a long time to get them all out.
Never mind: we looked wonderful wearing autumn’s glory!