Tag Archive 'seasonal change'

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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Aug 17 2017

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Last Days of Summer

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The other day I noticed goldenrod in bloom along the roadside. I’ve been seeing it everywhere since, including my own back yard. Goldenrod. We all know what that means. Summer is on the wane.

Each morning I go to the window before eating breakfast, open the shades and announce to my wife that it’s another beautiful day. I prefer sunny days to overcast ones, of course, but this time of year they are all beautiful. Fresh produce, t-shirt weather, everything in bloom – how can you go wrong?

Autumn is also a wonderful time of year, especially here in Vermont. Still I am saddened by the prospect of summer coming to an end. There is still so much I want to do before the big chill comes.

The march of time. Days go by, weeks pass, seasons change. I want to slow it all down, but there seems to be no way to do that. Yesterday I filled a pint container with blackberries for the first time this year. Already some of the best bushes are past their prime.

One day is just as good as the next, I suppose, regardless of the season. Nonetheless, I will try to savor these last few days of summer, making the most of them. That means spending as much time outdoors as possible. To confound myself, I have resumed writing already – something that I usually don’t do until September. And what do I write about? Being outdoors. Go figure.

 

 

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Mar 10 2017

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Harbinger of Spring

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Surprisingly warm, spring-like temps melted off most of the snow in the Champlain Valley earlier this week. It seemed a little premature at the time. Sure enough, an arctic blast just hit the region, promising single-digit temps this weekend. Yeah, March is like that here in the North Country. Freeze and thaw – perfect weather for sugaring.

I went for a short walk in the nearby ten-acre wood this afternoon. Galvanized buckets hang from most of the maple trees over there. My neighbor likes to collect sap the old fashioned way. Taps and lines are how serious maple syrup operations do it these days. That said, I like seeing the buckets. They have a certain rustic charm.

There’s snow in the long term forecast, along with rain, more warmth, and more frigid temps. Vermonters grumble but everyone knows this is normal. It’s still too early to clean up the yard, but that’ll have to be done soon. The buckets are a harbinger of things to come. I’ve already seen the first migrating geese. And the woodpeckers are busy. Spring is imminent.

My dog Matika and I are both restless. I’m getting over a head cold and more than ready to head for the hills and really stretch my legs. The half-frozen earth underfoot during my short walk was a very good sign. Won’t be long before Matika and I get good and muddy.

The days are much longer now than they were in January. The equinox isn’t far away. My favorite season is almost here. I’m looking forward to it.

 

 

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Nov 22 2016

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Sudden Winter

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backyard-first-snowEven though the weather forecasters gave us plenty of warning, it still came as something of a surprise. Sunday’s rain turned to snow. When I got out of bed yesterday, there were several inches of the white stuff on the ground and my plow guy was clearing the driveway. And this morning it’s still snowing. Egads!

Because the wind is blowing, it’s hard to say how much snow has fallen. A few stray leaves dance across the field of white that my back yard has become. Snow thrown against tree trunks stays there. Beautiful in a Nordic kind of way. The skiers must be ecstatic.

All bundled up, I shoveled a path to my front door roughly 48 hours after walking around in shirtsleeves, bagging leaves. It was still an unseasonably warm autumn on Saturday. Not any more. Now it looks and feels much like a typical Thanksgiving week here in northern New England. Just enough snow on the ground for the hunters to do their thing.

Never a big one for winter sports, I prefer being indoors this time of year, camped in front of the fire burning steadily in the corner stove. Lots of literary work to do, lots of pondering. That said, I won’t be able to stay inside very long. Eventually the wild will call me out. Either that or my dog will start bugging me. Her thick coat was made for this kind of weather.

No doubt temps will rise again and today’s snow will melt away before winter really strikes with a vengeance. Day-to-day and week-to-week, it’s a roller coaster. But there’s no mistaking what time of year it is. The cold, dark season is underway here in the North Country. The grey light in the late afternoon confirms that. So we brace ourselves for the inevitable. Which reminds me: I should dig out my gloves, and get those winter tires on the car. There’s no time to lose.

 

 

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Sep 08 2016

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First Color

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early-fall-colorI can’t believe it’s that time of year already. I look up while running my errands and there it is: a sugar maple starting to turn. Busy with moving, renovating the old place, and cultivating my book business, summer went by even faster than normal. Now here it is autumn.

The first sign of it came last month while I was hiking in the mountains with my grandsons. Hobblebush leaves were turning reddish-brown then – a sure sign of what was coming. Wood asters, one of the last wildflowers to bloom during the growing season, appeared in my back yard as well. And the crickets have been noticeably noisy for a while now.  Yeah, there has been plenty of warning. Still… I can’t quite wrap my brain around it.

Autumn in Vermont is always something special – there’s no doubt about that. I look forward to the crisp cool days, bug-less hikes, and the kaleidoscope of color. I’m returning to my literary work, too, after a four-month intellectual drought. But those of us who live here in the North Country are always a little sad to see summer fade away. The growing season is short in these parts. We never seem to get enough of it.

That said, I’m enjoying these last few barefoot days and consuming as much fresh produce as I can. The trees are turning but it takes a month or so for Mother Nature to change her seasonal garb. No sense getting ahead of ourselves. The present is all that really matters.

 

 

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Mar 16 2016

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An Early Spring

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early iris shootsWhen I first spotted robins last week, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Not until I saw their bright orange bellies up close did I welcome them back. Even then I thought perhaps they’d come back too soon. This is the North Country after all. It’s not unusual for us to get hit with sub-zero temps or a blizzard this time of year.

Yes, I’ve been enjoying the above-average temps this month, and I’m not sad to see the snow melt away. I’ve hiked trails recently that were more mud than frozen ground. But a part of me has remained in winter mode. That is, until I saw them.

A couple days ago, I spotted green shoots pushing up in my garden. Oh sure, the hearty lilies next to my house have been up for quite some time now. They scoff at frost and snow. But the green shoots that have arisen in my garden are something else. They’re early spring irises that usually don’t appear until April.

That did it. After seeing those shoots, I put away my winter coat. I like to spend a night in the mountains in April, as soon as the snow up to fifteen hundred feet is gone. Now I’m thinking I might be able to do that before the end of this month.

Springtime catches me off guard. I’m lost in thought this time of year so the first whiff of unthawed earth on a fifty-degree day always comes as something of a surprise. That said, I can’t remember the season ever starting this early. Not that I’m complaining.

 

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Mar 08 2016

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A Hint of Spring

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March trailI awoke this morning to light coming through the window, and saw a starling at the bird feeder while I was getting breakfast. After reworking a short narrative about hiking in early spring, I could no longer contain myself. I did the bare minimum work necessary to keep my book business going then flew out the door with Matika’s leash in hand. She came running after me, all smiles.

Temps had reached into the mid-40s by the time my dog and I stepped onto the icy trail at Niquette Bay State Park only half an hour from home. A mile out, I stripped off my light jacket and hiked in shirtsleeves as the dusting of snow on the trail underfoot melted away. Two miles out, the frozen mud began to thaw. It was a wonderful thing to behold.

A crow called out in the otherwise quiet woods. I looked up to see patches of blue in a mostly grey sky. The trees were motionless in the still air. I stopped frequently during the hike just to groove on the snowless forest all around me. It was a wonderful thing to behold.

Is it still winter? Do I dare think of this as the beginning of an earlier-than-usual spring? It’s a hint of spring to be sure, and for that I am grateful. I am a creature of the warmer months. I’ve done enough winter ruminating already. So bring it on! Tomorrow, I hear, is going to be a surprisingly warm day. I can’t wait.

 

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Oct 06 2015

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That Time of Year

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RT fall foliageSeems like the autumnal color is a week or two late, and not nearly as vibrant as it has been in the past. Chalk that up to a run of hot days in September, I suppose. But that doesn’t change the fact that the leaves turning is as inevitable as the days getting shorter. It is, after all, that time of year.

Taking a break from work at midday to walk my dog Matika and stretch my legs, I meander along the Rail Trail for a while. The contrast between remnant summer-like green leaves and the gold, burnt orange, and rusty ones gets my attention, emptying my mind of business matters – at least temporarily. Time marches along, as the seasons attest. We are wise not to ignore it.

A caterpillar labors in front of me. Squirrels race across the trail, gathering their winter foodstuffs. The other day I saw a telltale V of geese leaving Canada. No hard frost yet, but a thin coating of it covered the top of my car a couple days ago. Yeah, we’re getting there.

On the Rail Trail, a young woman breezing past on a bicycle notices me taking a picture of the colorful foliage overhead. “Finally!” she says gleefully, “Getting rid of the green!” I don’t share her enthusiasm. The warm season is never long enough for me.

In a month or two, I’ll be missing the color of vegetative growth. Then again, seasonal change is nice. I wouldn’t want to live in Florida. I just wish it didn’t all happen so quickly. It’s hard keeping up.

 

  

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Sep 15 2015

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Between Seasons

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town forest pondIn the middle of the workday, I load my dog Matika into the car and drive to the town forest just a few miles outside of Saint Albans. Cooped up for several days running, Matika needs to get outside and stretch her legs. Quite frankly, so do I.

The trail is still damp from yesterday’s daylong rain, but the sun shines brightly through the forest canopy. I break a sweat in a manner of minutes. Summer lingers like an unwelcome guest at the end of a party, despite the fact that the trees are starting to turn.

Not far from the parking lot, I come upon a small pond with a few birdhouses around it to encourage avian habitation. I stop for a moment to take in the juxtaposition of summer heat and the rusted leaves of a couple red maples. It’s a win/win situation as far as I see things. I like autumn just as much as fall.

Continuing along the trail, I notice blue asters in bloom. That’s a between-season wildflower to be sure, just as comfortable in summer heat as autumn coolness. Seeing it reminds me of my long September hike through the Adirondacks a few years back. Since then I haven’t been able look at blue asters without smiling. They are denizens of the deep woods in late summer and early fall, even though they grow pretty much everywhere.

The smell of the forest in September – that’s what I like most about this time of year. It’s a dry, earthy fragrance with just a hint of floral sweetness. It’s as if the forest is satisfied with itself. Once again the growing season has been a success. Now there is only this pleasant coasting towards colder, darker days.

And yet I am not complacent. Wildness stirs within me with each step I take. Even though this is only a lunch hour hike, I hunger for a much longer excursion into the woods. Soon, very soon, I hope – before the snow flies.

 

 

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Apr 14 2015

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First Flowers

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early spring irisI couldn’t believe my eyes when I looked out the window this morning. I ran out the door, straight the skeletal remains of last year’s flower garden, and there it was: a tiny patch of early spring irises in bloom. I reached down to touch them, doubting Thomas that I am. Sure enough, they are real.

It really is springtime. The first flowers of the season prove it and, wouldn’t you know it, they popped up right under my nose here at home. Robins, starlings and other migrating birds have been announcing the season for quite some time now, but it hasn’t really sunk in. It takes a flower to chase the last wintry thoughts from my head.

My dog Matika and I hiked around Indian Brook Reservoir yesterday as temps rose into the 70s for the first time this year. The trail was mostly cold mud with the occasional patch of dirty ice. A barred owl hooted in the middle of the afternoon, adding yet another surreal layer to the surprising experience of hiking soft earth in shirtsleeves. I came home and opened the windows, still expecting it to snow again. After all, it snowed just last week.

The green shoots of the day lilies in my front yard have been pushing up with such persistence that I felt inclined to mulch them this afternoon. Every year I undergo this rite of passage from the colder season to the warm one. This year I’ve gotten to it a little later than usual, still traumatized by winter. But lilies don’t care how cold or snowy it was. They live in the Now.

“So that’s it,” I said to myself while slowly picking up debris in my yard, gingerly stepping around the spongy wet patches still saturated with snowmelt. Then I put away my snow shovels. There’s no point in dwelling upon the past.

 

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