Fall began last month and already woods and fields are burnished with red, gold and bronze. The nights are still tinged with mist and fog, but there is a nip in the air now that will grow sharper as the days grow shorter. Walkers and joggers wear an extra layer in the early mornings, and the first frost is only a matter of time for tender outdoor plants. The ocean seems a deeper blue and white sails dot Nantucket and Vineyard Sounds as hardy Island sailors take end-of-season season sails before putting their boats up for the winter.
Islanders who like to gather autumn wildflowers are having a heyday picking armfuls of goldenrod, lavender and white asters and pearly everlasting from fields. Boneset and pink Joe Pye Weed (said to have been named for an Indian medicine man who cured typhoid with it) may be found along brooks. The coins of money plant rustle and a few of its silvery dollars can be added to a bouquet. A sprig or two of yarrow adds an invigorating autumnal scent.
Turquoise porcelain berries are a subtle addition to fall bouquets and soon bittersweet will burst, showing off red berries inside golden frames. For all their loveliness, both are unwanted, invasive vines. Huckleberry and sumac leaves are turning crimson, also a fine addition to an autumn arrangement.
No longer hidden behind the tall grasses of summer, up-Island stone walls are beginning to display their green-gray lichen and the painstaking handiwork of long-ago builders.
Soon the smell of wood smoke will lace the autumn evening air, and pumpkins will be placed in dooryards and on front stoops, their bright orange lighting the way to Halloween.
“There is a harmony in autumn,” the poet Shelley wrote, “and a lustre in its sky, Which thro’ the summer is not heard nor seen.”
On the Vineyard, the harmony of autumn has arrived.