Dusk falls on Halloween night and a last breath of light hovers in our garden. Near me a dawn redwood shines like weathered copper, and the flowering stems of Miscanthus 'Little Kitten' stand like candlesticks gathering remnants of evening light. To the west, Eucalyptus trees are held in silhouette against a fiery sky. The string of tiny orange lights, strung about the side entrance to the house, anticipates the arrival of young guests. Although evening commitments await me, I resist going inside. I long to hold time, to savor this moment. Walking along the pathways of the garden I attempt to etch memories into my mind.
The air is unusually hot and clouds of humming insects tumble from tree to shrub. In the meadow stiff stalks of cane bluestem stroke the air like sable paintbrushes. Further down the path the last leaves on the cottonwood, stir in the wind, before twirling to the ground. Crossing the front of the house, I notice the California grape changing color. The dry, blood red leaves are illuminated like paper lanterns, their curling edges catching the remaining rays of sunlight.
Moving to the sheltered woodland, behind the house, I see the sycamore has begun its honey-colored surrender to fall. A few leaves are scattered beneath, but its large form has yet to fully embrace the season. Farther up the incline are the massed, shattered seed heads of oriental fountain grass. A backdrop of burgundy, from an adjacent bed of Pennesetum ‘Rubrum’ provides contrast to their furry bleached flowers.
Returning to the meadow, where I began, I see the giant pumpkin my daughter carved with her friend earlier in the week. Its withered, slanting eyes peer from a dense nest of pink yarrow. Orange cheeks billow up from its melting center. The garden is a luminary of life. Portions continue to recover from the day's Santa Ana wind, still hot as night approaches. Just ahead of the neighbor's children, the last light flickers off a bed of russet pine needles that cover the strawberry leaves.
Standing near the front door of my home I glance across the landscape and wonder when this light will come again. The blush of color is fading now, giving way to an early darkness. The tall Jack-o-lantern I carved sits behind me near the door, its three-cornered eyes and wide grin glowing brightly.
By Rainie Fross Oct 1999