When autumn is as brilliant as it’s been this year, we want it to continue.  A crisp but not cold day, blue sky with some clouds, the changing colors with their deep hues, and a country road that winds through the woods with leaves crinkling under the tires and the deeper smell of fall in the air –  the very best way to soak up a prime day of this most beautiful season.

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autumn-sunrise-como-park_14461-staatsOur fall temperatures have continued, and last Friday dawned with a noticeable crispness in the air.  The wind was still at this early hour, and the sun was just starting to reflect off the clouds above as it made its way over the horizon.  At Como Park I was able to find a perfect spot to take in the sunrise.  A small pond on the golf course captured the reflection of the clouds above, and the silhouettes of the trees.  Some trees still have their leaves while others have lost them to the autumn winds, and the grasses are in full bloom – their swan song before winter moves in.  This season seems to be the shortest one, no matter how hard we try to hold onto the fall colors.

Dusk Mille Lacs Lake_Staats 11673Climate change, global warming, el nino – for whatever reason, today had the promise of sunshine and temperatures in the 50’s – almost unheard of  for mid-November in Minnesota.  Last year at this time we had a layer of snow and highs near 30 degrees.  So when a day comes like today, it warrants savoring.  We drove north to Mille Lacs Lake and set out for some end of the season fishing.  On the south side of the lake we were protected from the wind that was blowing across the cooling lake.  Although we came up short for our fishing luck, we considered ourselves enormously fortunate for being able to enjoy a beautiful day on a big lake.  As we were pulling off the lake, the sun was starting to set and painting the sky with beautiful shades of blue and pink.  The bare trees, the blue water, and the rocks along the shore all seemed to be celebrating this unusual day for mid-November in Minnesota.

Ordway Japanese garden fall 11379_StaatsThere are so many lovely “hidden gems” in the Twin Cities, and one just happens to be in my neighborhood.  Como Park, which includes a conservatory, zoo, carousel, golf course, lake, swimming pool, picnic areas, and many trails, also holds a lovely Japanese garden tucked away down a winding path.  In the early morning hours with the colors of autumn on display, I found myself humbled and amazed at the quiet and the beauty in the garden.  The fallen leaves seemed to have a purpose in their random display, as if saying that all is right in this changing landscape.  The colors spoke to me, begging to be remembered as they will be quickly replaced with the white of snow.  This year’s change of seasons has been hurried, yet here in the Japanese garden there was a stillness and quiet reminding me that each season holds its own purpose and to trust in the changes of fall prior to the long nights of winter.

Fall path Wild River State Park 11214 _StaatsA week ago I made a quick drive north of Saint Paul to one of my favorite Minnesota state parks, Wild River.  Located along the St. Croix River, the park seems to always have some glorious fall colors.  On arriving before dawn, I made sure to be by the river as the sun rose over the Wisconsin bluffs to the east.  As quickly as the sun cleared the bluffs, the clouds moved in and the light changed.  After an hour of cloudy and gray skies, I wandered up onto the hillside and the main area of the park.  While walking down the hiking path the sunlight broke through the clouds for about five minutes.  Through the golden leaves on the trees, the woods were bathed in a luminous light that was ever so brief.  The clouds moved back in, the winds picked up causing the leaves to scatter along the path, and eventually the rain began.

Fall in the air 20150909_185659 StaatsThe winds have been from the south, bringing warm and summer-like temperatures into Minnesota.  But the days are shorter and nature is anticipating the change of seasons into fall.  Some of the trees have started the change in colors – a glorious outburst to the beauty of nature and autumn.  I was riding my bicycle on the Gateway Trail yesterday.   The sunshine was warm and I was breaking a sweat but the air didn’t have the fresh green smell of summer.  The path was littered with dried leaves that had already fallen, and they crackled as my bike tires ran over them —  reminding me of being a child and using clothespins to attach playing cards to my bike so they would snap through the spokes.  The sound was delightful and I found myself swerving to ride through the leaves on the trail.  Change is in the air.

Morning light 7618_StaatsSometimes everything comes together wonderfully, and so it was last weekend.  About seven miles away is a regional park right in the city, but to walk along the trails is like being miles away from the cacophony and bustle of urban life.  I drove to the park before dawn and enjoyed the sunrise accompanied by the ducks, geese, and even some trumpeter swans.  The sky was a brilliant blue, and the warmth of the early morning light washed across the shoreline of Sucker Lake.  Protected from the wind, the reflection of the colors glowed in the lake’s surface, only to ripple when the ducks flew in.  It was the perfect beginning to a fall day.