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Keeping an eye on the important things

All sorts of important things are happening right now.

Americans are deciding who will be our president for the next four years. Local voters are choosing county leaders as well as state and federal representatives and determining what taxes they will pay and, in some cases, if local laws will change.

All around the world, the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Those things can be very distracting, so it might be important for us to remind ourselves to pay attention to some of the more seemingly mundane, yet still important, things that are happening all around us.

That occurred to me during an afternoon drive across Belmont County last week. With many of us working from home much of the time or at least limiting our trips out in public, we may not have as many opportunities as usual to take in the scenery or to notice new developments.

This year, Eastern Ohio — and the entire Ohio Valley, actually — is experiencing a gorgeous display of fall color.

Rather than a sudden, shocking shift to bitterly cold weather like we have experienced in some recent years, the autumn cooling has been more gradual this season. No big storms have ripped through the region with strong winds tearing the leaves from trees before they could transition from green to gold, orange and red.

Sure, I can see plenty of colorful trees around my home in Belmont. In fact, I have a couple of favorites that I watch at this time every year. For example, there is one on the west side of Jefferson Street close to the former site of Averil’s Beauty Shop that curves gracefully up from its roots to form a torch-like canopy that is lovely to look at year after year. I think it is a maple tree, but I am no expert at tree identification.

The black walnut tree in my yard turned a nice, sunny yellow this year. But its leaves fell more quickly than those on many in the surrounding area. Now it is mainly bare, except for the many nuts that have yet to fall to the ground.

But when you watch the change of color happen and look at things day after day until they become quite familiar, their beauty can lose some of its impact.

That’s why I think taking a different route to the office on Tuesday made the autumn colors so much more noticeable to me.

Instead of heading toward Morristown and turning east on Interstate 70 as usual, I left Belmont on Ohio 149, traveling through Loomis, Lamira and Warnock before going north on Ohio 9 to St. Clairsville where I did enter I-70. Along the way, I was struck by the bright, bold shades of color that were seemingly everywhere.

Color covered the hillsides above and filled the creek beds below road level. Scattered among the brilliant hues were patches of evergreens that created a pleasant contrast, much like the bright green lawns that had not yet faded to their brownish winter hues.

On some lawns, clusters of ornamental trees made bold statements. In one spot, a line of the same type of tree presented an interesting view, as the southernmost tree was still about half green, while each successive tree to the north displayed more and more bright red. I suppose they were affected by the shade that each tree in line cast upon the next.

As I headed east on Ohio 149 and passed Airport Road, I traveled through some areas where the trees on either side of the road met overhead. The resulting canopy created a tunnel-like atmosphere where the leaves above glowed as the sunlight passed through them.

The changing of the seasons is important. It is part of the natural cycle of life, and a sign to us that very different conditions are on the way. We need to be prepared.

I suppose the same is true about all those other important things I mentioned — elections and the pandemic. But I think it would be wise not to let them overshadow the important things we can count on year after year.

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As fall sets in, though, I’m afraid time has run out for our little garden.

With frost in the forecast early Saturday morning, I made one final visit to my fenced-in patch of vegetables late Friday afternoon. I was able to gather a few small green tomatoes, some radishes, lettuce and a handful of green bell peppers.

For a few weeks now, I have noticed growth and ripening slowing down, with fewer and fewer items of produce appearing ready to be picked with each visit.

Of course, there are crops that I could plant and grow through the fall and into the winter. I tried my hand at some winter squash but didn’t have the same luck I did earlier with zucchini and crookneck yellow varieties. I thought the radishes I planted late would grow at least through the end of this month, but they had all either pushed themselves out of the ground or had been nibbled on by slugs by Friday.

With shorter days and cooler temperatures, I have found myself less motivated and with less time to do those chores. So, I suppose it is time to let our garden go for the year.

My husband, Mike, and I certainly enjoyed our harvest this year. We ate fresh vegetables almost daily from sometime in June right up until today. Now we just need to get ready for next year.

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