The First Cold Day

The weather is really taking a turn towards winter now: the leaves are mostly down, and hard frosts are killing anything left. I went out to stack firewood this morning, and the wheelbarrow I use had a puddle of icy rainwater in it. Droplets of ice dotted the big tufts of grass on the walk to the bus stop this morning. The leaves were hard and crunchy. Wind rattles the bare branches of the trees, and conifer needles sprinkle down. The air even smells cold, if you understand that. Leaves float slowly in the wind, suspended by the very blustery gusts blowing through. Isn’t it funny how they move slowly in a fast wind? How do they do that?

The power went out yesterday for a few hours, and I dug out the flashlights, batteries and candles. It was a gentle reminder that winter is looming, ready to step in and drastically change everything. The candles glowed in their silver holders, and it felt special, but the power was out for only two hours–longer than that the comfort level quickly changes. We do have a generator, but it is early in the season. It’s not set up and ready to go yet. This is a wake up call for those last little tasks that haven’t yet been done.

Outside, the birds have been very active. They know to get ready, too. The other day I roasted some pumpkin seeds, but they were just too big and woody to really enjoy, so I put them out for the birds and the squirrels on the old maple stump that is in our backyard. I kept looking out the kitchen window hoping to see someone enjoying the seeds, as the stump is only twenty or so feet away. I didn’t get to see them, but sure enough the seeds were all gone when I went out this morning to toss the rest of the pumpkin seeds out.

This stump is a miracle of life–there is so much activity going on inside and on it. It’s maybe five years old, and soon enough it will return to the earth. Pileated woodpeckers especially like it, and they’ve helped the most in breaking it down by feeding on the bugs that are working on the inside. Fungi have also played a big role–waves of all kinds of shelf polypores come and go. Most recently a huge flush of brick cap mushrooms fruited. They were gorgeous, and I admired them over the course of a few days, until this morning I noticed they were all gone. I’ve often seen our resident squirrels enjoying the mushrooms. What a feast: pumpkin seeds and brick cap mushrooms!

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Notes:

Read this article by Robert Macfarlane. I’ve been thinking a lot about the landscape as a being, so this was a real perfect read.

The American Woodland Garden: Capturing the Spirit of the Deciduous Forest by Rick Darke. I recently found this book, and it’s a scholarly work of art. Period. You know when you open a book, and you gasp because it’s just what you were looking for but you didn’t know it? It’s just that incredible–beautiful artwork, thoughtful writing. Thank you, Rick Darke!

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