It’s chilly outside. Colors are at peak — maybe a bit past, depending on where one looks. A damp cutting breeze is trimming leaves into great clouds of kaleidoscopic flakes onto earthen carpets where, except in the ‘burbs, they will become fertilizer for next years’ growth rings on the trees from which they fall.
Red maples, yellow poplars. Across the pasture over which Pickett’s Charge took place, Little Round Top wears horizontal stripes where different species have chosen different growing areas.
The mouse traps were empty when I slid out of bed to check. I’m glad.
I know about disease vectors and the bother of the little critters nibbling into the sleeves of saltines crackers, leaving a carpet of tiny black pellets on the pantry shelf. But, really, they don’t eat much.
I lived for awhile in a cabin in a wood. On a winter evening, we would watched a tiny critter appear on one side of the living room, scurry around the top edge of the tongue-and-groove knotty pine sheathing to the pantry – where he (or she) – knew a tube of Ritz crackers waited. He took one, then retraced his path to his family.
The end is near, the calendar says, though physical evidence offers some argument. Summer inexorably withdraws southward, following the Canada geese to their winter abode, but the lawn still needs periodic cutting.
We returned from a two-week road trip to the sound of a cricket holding forth from among the stones. It was an unexpected sound for mid-October. Temperatures the past few days have been in the 80s that should be at least 20 degrees lower, breaking records for highs set in 1908. Marsh Creek is shallower than it should be this time of year. Rain near the end of September raised the creek some, but a friend reports a boulder that is usually submerged all winter is about 18 inches exposed.
Through the trees a couple of honks announced a gaggle of Canada geese approaching from the north. In less than a minute, maybe 20 individuals in a signature V floated just over the stand of oak trees, wings beating in almost perfect unison. They likely would land in a field of corn stubble, at least near a stream, if not in the pond across from the Mount St. Mary’s University campus a few miles down the road.
For the past few days, Blue Jays here been gathering, like caravaners of old, preparing to head south, rather than west, for the winter. Apparently, though, the new caravaners are mostly young birds. Older couples – blue jays, by the way, are monogamous – tend to stay around here for the winter. That’s OK. The jays love the peanuts we toss out to the squirrels, and we love watching as they drop down to the back deck, grab a nut, and make off to feast in peace.
It’s spring, and young men’s fancy turns to thoughts of attracting young women’s attention. One may be the best at what he does, but it’s of no consequence if first he doesn’t gain the attention of prospective suitors. Watching the spring show at the lake is all about the boys striving for attention.
I was reminded last weekend of a certain young man of my brood who exhibited much the same activity when spring called boys and girls to doff their furs and leggings in favor of more demonstrative attire. He did have a physique I had never enjoyed, and would daily go to the gym on Main Street to pump iron and build rivers of sweat. Girls, their hormones telling them to pay attention, stood at the plate glass window and admired his effort.
I, and my faithful companion Grady the Golden, wander along our favorite stream, among the vestiges of the Spring Transition.
Water gurgles and splashes over stones and boulders into a pool where a pair of Mallards paddle lazily. In a few weeks, they will be leading a brood of youngsters.[pullquote]… an owl hoo-hoo-hoooos. I flatter myself to think he’s laughing at me …[/pullquote]
Around another curve, a sextet of Canada geese hurry away. They are shy, sort of, like a group of prima donnas that want to be seen, but not looked at – and certainly not photographed.
A friend told me this week it has been so cold where she lives, kids have been complaining their cell phone keypads have been freezing. They have had to wait until second period before the keys have thawed enough they can be used to text the youngster across the aisle to set a lunch meeting in the school cafeteria.
Being without a working cell phone is rough, but I guess it is all relative. I bet my daughter remembers being unable to satisfactorily explain the necessity of tying up the home phone to talk to friends with whom she had just spent the day at school. Even that was B.C. – Before Cell.
A few days ago, the first Eastern Bluebird of the season wandered into the yard. I watched as what I am pretty sure was a Tufted Titmouse sat on a branch and dug a peanut from its shell. I’ve been told robins have been seen in Littlestown. It’s seasonal shift change in the bird kingdom.
Winters of my youth I remember being way more snowy than those of more recent vintage. I mentioned to an old guy one day that as cold and snowy as it now seems, there was a time when by late October the snow would came up to my, uh, posterior.
He offered the possibility that my posterior was closer to the ground in those days – but I remember being 17 and one afternoon at the start of hunting season pushing my way downhill through the snow below Bates’ farm, hoping to flush a deer out of the pines at the edge of the pasture. Instead, I bagged a pair of Partridge for dinner.
It’s nearly 7 a.m. The sun soon will come into view. Not long ago, I would sat on the back porch to read. Now I am glad the electronic paper on which I write has its own illumination.
[pullquote]“Seven out of 10 people will live in a city by 2050,” Meaghan Parker, writer/editor at the Woodrow Wilson Center.[/pullquote]
A school bus passes my home, right on time. It will stop in a hundred yards or so to pick up several students and carry them to brick-walled institutions of learning. Would that it take them to a forest or a garden. I live in a county where agriculture is one of the two main industries, so a smaller percentage of our kids than, say, Baltimore’s or New York’s, think food comes from a Food Lion, but even a few are too many.
The stream beside our back porch looks and sounds cooler these days. The Forest of Brown-eyed Susans and Echinacea has withered, as have the clumps of Hostas, their tall purple bell-bearing stalks nearly completely bereft of their autumn royalty.
I don’t know whether it’s global warming, climate change or as my spouse chooses to believe, the snow thrower we bought last year, when we thought more snowy winters to be in the offing.
I pulled the machine out of the shed in October, when we had a pretty serious snow – for South-Central Pennsylvania. About eight inches of the white stuff blanketed the ground. I cleared the driveway and the extra parking space – and have not used the machine since.
I suggested maybe we spent the money unnecessarily. Wife suggested it was money well spent.