The Meaning of Carpe Diem

The inner fire of carotenoid pigments
Signs of autumn’s tipping point are everywhere. This morning, when I drove through our Townsend Tunnel, the canopy looked past its prime, windrows deep with golden leaves. You have to watch a tree like a pot about to boil. Turn your head, and Nature’s sophisticated chemistry kicks in.
           Perhaps tomorrow the Tunnel will reach its full glory—our red maples will burst into flame. I hope they received the magic mix of cool nights and water for their carotenoid pigments to reveal their most brilliant show.
Oh! The delightful sounds of autumn’s approaching end! Pruning and raking. The shovel’s rush to plant those nursery bargains before fall's end. Yesterday, I transplanted four lavender shrubs to the rhythm of our neighbor’s plop of wood upon a pile.
Fall is naturally congenial and communal. We’re compelled to frolic in Creation’s temperate season to pick pumpkins and apples. Sip cider and eat donuts. Trick-or-Treat. I think it a remarkable instinct in honor of Nature’s harvest and man’s labor to produce it.
In high school, my best friend Debbie claimed fall was her favorite season. I preferred summer because my family vacationed in Kentucky with my kinfolk. One sunny fall Saturday, Debbie and I double dated with our boyfriends to Yates Cider Mill. 
My world expanded that afternoon. I’d never seen so many strangers in one place having so much fun, eating and laughing in picnic areas. Unawares, I was learning to appreciate Michigan’s seasons—the meaning of carpe diem.
 What I remember most of that blissful day is hiking in the woods. Debbie’s boyfriend climbed trees and hid. I participated. The place and moment settled into my soul and sowed an unspoken desire to raise my family amongst a forest.
Life didn’t work out that way. I found our little patch of property in Addison Township too late for our daughters to grow up climbing trees. They enjoy a good hike nonetheless.
I’ve adapted from tree climber to tree hugger. Although I cannot identify a Basswood from a Box Elder, I know the leaf and limb of the Catalpa and Linden. Their blooms emit scents from Heaven.  
Today, as I drove north on Rochester Road, I saw a Cooper’s hawk, then another a mile later. I’m always surprised to see their profile in a treetop after months of camouflage.
I recalled what Richardson Wright wrote in The Gardener’s Bed-Book. “Limb and structure step forth. An intricate and entirely different beauty offers itself to view. The tree enters on a rational, scientific phase.”
Dear Reader, it’s within this phase where the sense of urgency to stow away lawn furniture overcomes me. To compost the asparagus with the hen’s ripe bedding. To bake a pie with my first homegrown apples. Doesn’t a brown butter and oat streusel topping drizzled with caramel sound delicious?
And when winter comes, I’ll appreciate the wafting scent of my neighbor’s wood stove on walks to hug my naked trees.  Come March, I’ll watch for the first bud, a tipping point to spring.