Tag Archive 'late autumn'

Nov 07 2017

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Time Change

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It’s no big deal, really. In late autumn we all set our clocks back an hour, back to standard time, thus eliminating daylight saving time. It’s just a social convention that we all acknowledge, or so we tell ourselves. But one look out the window late in the afternoon tells us otherwise. Time change leaves its mark on us – especially on those of us sensitive to the slightest changes of light.

It’s November now, and the length of day here in northern Vermont has just slipped under ten hours. The time change drives this home, leaving us in the dark all evening before going to bed. It’s now dark before I quit working for the day. After the long days of summer, I find this a tough adjustment to make.

It’s November now, and most of the leaves have fallen from the trees. Even though this has been an unseasonably warm autumn, we all know what’s coming. I keep reminding myself that I have to get the snow tires on my car soon, real soon.

While the hunters are still tramping around the woods, I’ve called it quits for the most part. Oh sure, I hike or snowshoe during the colder months, but not with the same vigor that I do during the warmer ones.  This is the time of year when I do more writing than hiking. Everything in its season, I suppose.

Still it feels like the sun is setting on the growing season, on the season of lush vegetation. The barefoot days are long gone, and nature’s fecundity is giving way to its dormancy. That’s hard on a guy like me who’s constantly cultivating the wildness within. Now that wildness feels somewhat abstract. I’m spending an inordinate amount of time indoors, looking out windows. And the green world is slowly fading to brown. The heat and sweat of summer is but a memory.

 

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Nov 08 2016

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Late Autumn Walk

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late-autumn-woodsEven though I have plenty of work to do, it’s simply too nice a day to stay indoors. I ask my dog Matika if she thinks we should go for a walk and, well, she’s all over it. So we head out.

Not in the mood to drive anywhere, I walk through local woods and along back roads. This isn’t the wild forest I prefer, but it’ll do for now.

With temps reaching into the 60s, shirtsleeves is the way to go. Late autumn light illuminates leaves still clinging to tree branches. At midday the sun is pretty bright. Yet long shadows make it clear what time of year it is.

I kick up a few leaves as I walk. It seems the thing to do. The woods are golden brown. Quite beautiful, actually.

I amble along as if I have all the time in the world. In a way I do. The difference between rushing and not rushing on this two-mile loop is only ten minutes. I can certainly spare that.

Back home, I pour myself a cup of cider to celebrate the season properly. Then I open the windows before setting back to work. But there’s a chill in the air that I hadn’t noticed while walking. The windows won’t stay open long.

 

 

 

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Oct 26 2016

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Road Kill

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bone-on-the-roadLate October and the leaves are coming down. A few trees are still bright but most are past peak now. Today is cool and overcast. I wear a hat and jacket as I walk. Yesterday I saw the first specks of snow in my back yard. It’s that time of year.

Last week, while driving a busy New Hampshire highway in early morning traffic, I hit a deer. I was going 65 miles an hour like every other driver. Didn’t see it coming. Two seconds later or earlier and the deer would have been hit by someone else.

The deer bounced off the passenger’s side of my little car then disappeared just as quickly as it had appeared. From the damage it did to my car, I know it’s dead. The car is totaled. I’m okay. Had it been a moose instead of a deer, though, it would have been a different story.

I’m in a funk today, partly because winter is imminent and partly because I’m not enjoying the hassle of dealing with the insurance company. Being without a vehicle doesn’t help. But there’s something else going on in my head as well. One moment it’s another beautiful day and I’m going about my business per usual; the next I could be snuffed out of existence just like that. No warning. Boom! and it’s over.

It’s a grim thought for a grim time of year, certainly. Halloween is only a few days away. Halloween is the time of year when we dress up in funny costumes and make light of death. And so we should. If we stared sober at it during every moment that we’re awake, we’d go mad. So go ahead and have fun with it. The reaper catches up to us all soon enough.

 

 

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Oct 28 2013

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Last Harvest

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NiqBay, late fallJudy and I were both craving fresh apples so I drove to an orchard in the Champlain Islands today to pick up another bag or two. On the way home, I stopped at Niquette Bay State Park to stretch my legs and run my dog, Matika. With temps in the 40s and mostly grey skies spitting rain, I wore wool clothes for the occasion. Yeah, it has come to this.

The sun played hide-and-go-seek with me as I hiked. I kicked up dried leaves, marveling at the rust brown foliage still clinging to red oaks. Like beeches, oaks give up their leaves reluctantly. I admire that quality.

With tree trunks casting long shadows in mid-afternoon, I couldn’t help but think about the approaching dark season. My eyes gravitated to hollowed-out and dead trees still standing and on the ground as I walked. They seem to dominate the forest in the fall, or are they just easier to see now that the canopy is mostly down?

Three days shy of Halloween, death is everywhere, but the skeleton and tombstone decorations are mostly in jest. Children – those immortals among us – are amused by it. Not so much those of us getting up there in years. We are more cheerful and upbeat when the days are long and things are growing all around us. Beyond Halloween is a long, cold season that we must simply endure.

As I finished my walk, I tried hard to be in the moment and enjoy what’s left of autumn. But the fresh snow illuminating the Green Mountains and the sleet pelting the windshield of my car as I drove home made it difficult to ignore the obvious. I grabbed an apple and took a big bite. It tasted bittersweet. The last harvest. I both love and hate this time of year.

 

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Oct 21 2013

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Autumn Walk

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Autumn trailThanks to recent strong winds, most of the leaves are down now. I kick them up as I walk, stirring up memories of greener days as well as the pleasant, dry rot smell of foliage becoming humus. I revel in it.

These are golden days – a feast for the eyes. Yet the long slumber is fast approaching, as shadowy trunks of largely denuded trees attest. The sun rises reluctantly these days and sets surprisingly fast. But that only makes the warm glow at noon seem all the more precious. It’s the season of mixed feelings to be sure.

I walk in shirtsleeves, breaking a sweat that chills me when I stop. This is sweater weather but I’m not ready to go there yet. Haunted by memories of winters past, I cling to any hint of summer. The slightest leafy green in the forest understory encourages me to do so.

My dog Matika frolics through the forest, finding new and interesting smells everywhere. Meanwhile I slip in and out of the abstract. Lost in thought, I barely notice the rummaging squirrel or the V of geese honking overhead. Turning inward now. I do my best writing during the colder half of the year. Being an outdoor/nature writer for the most part, the irony of this is not lost on me.

Towards the end of my walk, I feel a sense of urgency similar to what squirrels, geese and other wild creatures must feel this time of year. What do I need to do to prepare for the dark months ahead? I’ve gathered books like nuts, and cleared away as many distractions as possible. I’m just about ready to sit down to work, to reactivate the life of the mind. My warm season frolic is almost over.

 

 

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Oct 26 2012

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On the Calavale

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Taking a day off from writing as well as the hotel job, I grab my pack, load the dog in the car, and head for the hills. The sun is shining and temps are already in the 50s. I have a feeling that this might be my last shirtsleeves hike for a long, long time.

I park my car along the edge of a rough dirt road cutting through the Belvidere bog then tag an ATV trail skirting some flooded areas. A woman with a pack of huskies suddenly appears. They are followed by an old man leading a draft horse. After that five hunters come along on two ATVs dragging a dead bull moose. What next?

The rest of the hike is a solitary affair. I walk up the logging road to a stream crossing then follow the brook while recalling a similar outing years earlier. Back then I had gone on a walking meditation. I had traced the Calavale Brook to its source before turning around. On the way out, weakened by a daylong fast, I had stopped to nap on a flat rock next to the brook. When I awoke, I saw two brook trout swimming in the nearby pool.

Finding a pool similar to the one where I had napped years earlier, I stop to eat and rest. My dog Maika stands guard after lunch, half expecting another surprise encounter. I listen to the brook tumbling over a five-foot ledge to the shallow pool while jotting down a few stray thoughts in a field journal. The surrounding trees, mostly birches, have lost all their leaves already. Here in the Green Mountains, winter isn’t far away.

It’s hard to explain the primary benefit of an outing like this. A day alone in the woods has a leveling effect. Whenever my boots are wet and muddy, and I’m sweaty from a rigorous walk, I seem to be more receptive to wildness both without and within. Then I see the world in a way that’s not possible in the developed lowlands. It’s instructive to say the least.

Walking out is easy – downhill all the way. I soak my feet good while wading the flooded areas. Otherwise there’s no adventure. Matika keeps stopping to sniff clumps of hair and bits of bloody flesh that the dragged moose left behind. That’s amusing. But all too soon we are back to the car and driving home. Yeah, these daylong outings never seem to last quite long enough.

 

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