Just after I flew down to Seattle for surgery, sunshine skies arrived above the rain forest, letting the stormy fall colors follow me south. The clouds polluted the Puget Sound skies with fire smoke. They thickened over San Francisco, Vancouver, and most of the West Coast. Huge swaths of its forests were burning.
But yesterday the winds shifted. The temperature dropped so sunshine could finally highlight a clear, blue sky. I pulled on a parka and headed toward a shade-free section of street where late-afternoon sunlight backlit the branches of everyday maples. It took little effort to discover a flash of maple leaves—clashes of reds, oranges, yellows, greens and browns. On a normal fall day, I’d probably accept the scene as the usual pre-winter portrait that such leaves paint each year before falling dry and brown to the ground.
It took me a long time to finish my little tour of the neighborhood. Rich, green grape leaves brightened some gardens. Fruits that I couldn’t recognize glowed red with blossoms. Just before turning back toward home I stumbled on a tiny, lime green insect scrambling up the outside of a clump of red berries. The stink bug froze on top of the clump, gave me a hard stare and returned to feed. If I had found a feeding insect while harvesting low bush cranberries back home, I would have crushed it like an enemy. But down here, where I don’t even know if the berries contain poison, I let the bug return to its work.