October 18, 2011
Latitude 47 11.5′ North
Longitude 120 56.5′ West
Day length: 10 hours 48 minutes

Barely daylight when I leave the house for work, so I don’t see that a killing frost has zapped the tomato plants that I finished harvesting a few days ago. The first light has been pinkish and hazy. The woods stay in deep shadow until nearly 10 o’clock when the sun finally penetrates through the trees. We work on a south-facing slope. Soon we are shedding layers of clothing. Faces turn to the sun–it’s warm and good.

All day long the mountains play peekaboo through the trees. I stop for glances at the snow-dusted peaks, so blue this time of year. Mt. Rainier is visible through a convenient low spot in the ridges. Katie calls it “The Big Kahuna.” Moment by moment the light changes, dappling and flickering vine maple leaves, briefly flaring on huckleberry bushes as the leaves drop. When our work is done, we hike down Tired Creek. The sun is in my eyes and the air has taken on that magical smoky quality of October. Mountain ash leaves are serrated flames. Cottonwoods go up in a blaze of gold against blue-green mountainsides. As perfect as this all is, spots of darkness appear on the leaves. Some are already dried and papery. Nothing holds still.

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