Oct 29 2009

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Stick Season

Posted at 9:51 am under Blog Post

Although some of the trees here in the valley are still aflame with late autumn brilliance, the mountain forests are largely denuded – a sea of brown/gray sticks waiting for snow.  I look up and see tangible proof of what my light-hungry psyche already suspects: the beginning of winter is weeks, not months, away.

There are more leaves on the ground than there are leaves still clinging to branches.  The tourists who stampeded into Vermont for peak color are long gone now, leaving natives behind to contemplate the long, cold season ahead.  A winterizing to-do list grows, yet there’s still gas in my lawnmower.  Once again, it seems, the changing season has taken me by surprise.

The hunters are all excited.  They gather up their gear like squirrels gathering nuts and will soon be chasing their quarry through the hills.  I am one of those left-behind people, hired years ago by avid hunter to keep his small motel running during the weeks he’s away.  My season is the season of wildflowers, dusty trails and brook trout, so I don’t mind babysitting a nearly empty motel between Halloween and Thanksgiving.  I watch TV when I’m not daydreaming of summer adventures.

My dog, Matika, is restless.  She gets a little ball-chasing exercise every day, but knows all too well that it’s been weeks since our last big woods adventure.  What can I say?  I’ve been busy working, entertaining visitors, and fighting off a virus.  I’ve been too busy writing about the wild to immerse myself in it, as sad as that may sound.  That’s the big joke of being a nature writer.  Your subject is outdoors but you do your work indoors.  My dog is not amused.

The sky is a gray sheet.  Geese honk in the distance, just in case I had any doubts about what time of year it is.  There’s a nip in the air now, forcing me to leave the house with a sweater or a light jacket when I run my errands.  But psychologically I’m still in shirtsleeves, and frequently I scrape the morning frost from my car windshield that way.  It’ll take a dusting of snow on the ground to change that.

Stick season is the in-between season, and that’s exactly how I feel these days, like so many others.  Time changes this weekend.  Our clocks will fall back an hour and dark evenings will soon be a way of life.  But I’m not ready for it.  I saw a wooly worm the other day and it looked ready for a long, hard winter.  Wild creatures, it seems, are always one step ahead of us – more in touch with the seasons than we could ever be.

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