Prairie Tayles: Mother Nature Gets An A+

Oct 6, 2017

As a teacher, I encourage students to incorporate sensory detail into their narratives and essays. If Mother Nature were in my classroom this fall, I’d have to give her an A+ for her efforts. She’s hammered one detail after another into golden perfection from the sights, scents, to sounds of autumn.

As always, October color can’t be beat—from the brilliant blue and gray skies to the earth-tone grasses that create a prairie mosaic that shifts in intensity depending on the time of day someone views it. This year it seemed the leaves have been even more brilliant than in years past, and that depth of tone lasted nearly two full weeks before it began to fade and leaves somersaulted to the ground. Many days, it was hard to pay attention to the road during parts of my daily drive just because I wanted to stop and stare at nature’s palette; however, that’s not an option on a busy highway. It’s a good thing western Kansas doesn’t get many leaf peepers to slow down traffic.

If you’re going to be blessed, you need to expect abundance, and once again, the post summer season hasn’t disappointed. When I sit outside of an evening enjoying the last rays of sunlight highlight golden treetops lining a distant stream, tantalizing scents of wood smoke tease my nose. Folks not too far away from my house heat with logs they’ve cut. I may not be sitting around their fire, but my heart feels its mood, and I settle more deeply into my cushioned chair. Spicy hints of end-of-season petunias, roses, and zinnias float atop that wood smoke, taunting my nose and brain to sort the different aromas into proper categories. During a recent pumpkin patch visit, leaf mold, dry hay, grilling sausages, and roasting peanuts triggered another round of what’s-that-smell. In sharp autumn air, it’s a relaxing game to enjoy.

Not only do my eyes and nose get a work out this time of year, so do my ears.  Late season crickets play slow sonatas to a rising moon. Many bird species have already migrated so those musical arrangements are simpler and quieter than those a few weeks earlier. During my pumpkin patch visit, I rested near a tiny scarecrow in a shaded hideaway and listened to Millbrook and The Flatland Band splay old time rhythms that made my toes tap and my heart sing. As the fiddle and big bass’s notes vibrated through ash and locust trees, falling leaves hit dry ones on the ground, which sounded like raindrops pittering on an old roof creating nature’s backbeat to the instrumentals.

Students may have to write English class essays in words, but nature has her own way of communicating to each of us. While she may not type her message in black on a white piece of paper, she does use the same sensory detail any good writer captures and imprints it on the human heart. Her message this time of year is to slow down and enjoy her gifts.