NATURE NARRATIVES: Beneath apples & aspens

By Melissa Walker
       A light breeze stirs the golden leaves of our backyard aspen grove, creating flickering shadows on the forest floor. Seated on our weathered wooden glider, I slowly rock back and forth long enough to feel in sync with the sights and sounds of autumn. I am taking somewhat of a risk by sitting here at this time of year with scores of ripe apples dangling just above my head. Gravity could win the tug-of-war any moment.

ABOVE: Apples amid aspens. BELOW: The older buck, post-skirmish.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Scattered at my feet are bright yellow aspen leaves and faded red apples decaying in the sun's warm rays. The buzz of honeybees and wasps, the "knack-knack-knack" of a white-breasted nuthatch and the "dee-dee-dee" of black-capped chickadees join the sounds of our Westside suburban neighborhood. A few blocks away, a house is getting a new roof, the steady pounding of nails adding percussion to the sounds of nature on this October afternoon.
       An unexpected sound suddenly draws my attention. I step up onto a rock to peer over our fence to see a five-point mule deer buck sparring with a smaller buck. The clacking of their antlers is very brief, as the younger buck backs down quickly, conceding the skirmish. Then, both bucks nibble at, and then devour several apples, their conflict seemingly forgotten. Harmony is restored to the golden afternoon and I reluctantly leave the aspen grove. The empty glider now looks lonesome, but ready to catch some falling apples.

Walker, a long-time area naturalist, posts regular entries in her online blog at naturenarratives.com. She has given her permission to reprint selected pieces in the Westside Pioneer.