October is the month of painted leaves. Their rich glow now flashes round the world. As fruits and leaves and the day itself acquire a bright tint just before they fall, so the year near its setting. October is its sunset sky; November the later twilight.

— Thoreau, “Autumnal Tints”

That’s probably the case in New England, but here in the mid-Atlantic region, it tends to be early November when the leaves reach their glorious peak. This week is traditionally very busy for us, and this year we entertained a visiting relative for a few days on top of it, so I feel as if a whole week of my favorite month of the year has zipped by before I could savor it. But today, the sun was bright, the temperature mild, the pine trees were laying down a golden carpet of dead needles, the breeze was nipping at the heels of the fallen leaves and herding them across the yard, and the air itself seemed to glow with a reddish-orange hue from the blazing treetops. A year ago this night, I was about to embark on a three-day hospital stay culminating in gallbladder surgery. Today, I’m just happy to be alive to enjoy this wonderful time of year.