MAN IS A HARVESTER at heart, and the strains in the process of civilization have not been able to stifle his joy in gathering or his fervor in collecting the fruits of the land. Before the frosts come and nature takes back what the harvesters don't need, the final searches for October's bounty are taking the gatherers to the open spaces and closed woodlands.

What happends along the way is that the gatherers discover that much more than pumpkins, cranberries or Indian plums can be taken in. A harvest of sights, sounds and smells is as much a part of the October richness as the yieldings of the earth. It is as though nature, in closing down its productive powers for the winter rest, is offering a final burst of sense-filling wonder to be remembered by. Few scenes are more visually captivating than a blaze of yellowing hickories caught between stands of purpling ashes, and behind it all a cluster of orange and red oaks. The colors combine a fury of hues that is all the more amazing because tomorrow the combinations will change, and the next day they will change again. Autumn's trees can be counted, its acres walked off and temperatures recorded. But October's colors are not so easily measured. They are harvested by emotions, not hands.

In his poem "October," Earnest Kroll understands that we are now in a time of swift passage:

The light that sets behind

The woodlot's stained-glass windows

Colors the air before

With wine and gold in kind.

Look, while the windows hold

Translucent and aglow

Against the altar candle,

Before the gothic vandal

Of a north wind, sneezing snow,

Into the woodlot crashes,

Wheezing, "Sashes, empty sashes.

To color with the mind!"