It’s here– the chilly hand that blows up your shirt and tells you to get a sweater. The low sun that hits your eyes while driving at 4 p.m. Brilliant gold explosions off windows and chrome. The angles are all different, shadows longer…and it feels good to walk indoors. Brisk, chipper, crisp, sharp, raw…outside after the first frost has come like a minor angel of death, killing the tender leaves on vines in the garden…it feels good to be inside.
Today I dug up the sweet potatoes. I didn’t have to. I figured that the next opportunity I had could be a rainy day or a colder day than this. I did not want to have them freeze over the winter or try prying them out of frozen ground in December. It was a practical decision. I’d prefer to uproot them at the last possible moment, just before baking them or boiling them at Thanksgiving. Oooh, sounds so gourmet Martha Stewart but impractical. I compromised. I doubt that it will matter at all when the time actually comes to eat them baked with buttery brown sugar or boiled and mashed. Mmmm–mmm.
Putting things away, bringing in the summer chairs, closing out the garden. Here in south central Pennsylvania we have many weeks to get ready for the bitter cold of winter. Some years I recall cutting the Christmas tree in a sweatshirt and shorts. Other years were dark and angry days punching you in the face with pissed off polar air. No matter the intro; freezing cold eventually gets here.
Being mammals we sort of hibernate inside our brick and stick caves. I don’t particularly like this seasonal shift. I’d prefer to relocate like the smart birds do, flying south to Mexico or Panama for the winter. The snowbirds aren’t just cranky old New York pensioners in Florida and Arizona. They are all of us who yearn for the warmth of the sun. What would be so bad about a wholesale southern migration for the winter, so epic that the Mexican government and all the Central American countries had to enact tighter immigration policies? We could spend a lot of Gringo dollars in the warmth of their latitudes and maybe learn a thing or two that living in the cold does not allow. I can dream, right?
Extreme politics will not erase extreme weather, though. So I settled for a nice inside day. I called Chuckles for Sunday dinner, some chess, some football on television, some conversation. We do more of this sort of visiting in the cold months. Which helps take the edge off.
I recall a late snowy Sunday evening last winter. Chuck and the Egginator had been visiting. I walked out in the dark silence with them and just soaked in the cold stillness. From across the field behind our house came the “Who, who, who” of a Hoot Owl. I called back “Who, who, who”. It responded back. It was an awesome little nature moment without leaves or vines or grass to soften or absorb the naked ice conversation. Then off to the north I heard another Hoot Owl join the conversation, “Who, who, who”. It was magical and almost seemed like an echo or someone like me playing back the original hoots. But listening closely proved that it was another genuine owl call. And then a third owl kicked in. It was supramagical as the call made a round of three owls and one human. We laughed and listened until their little soire broke up. Then the three of us said good night.
Okay, maybe snow covered nights have some value and not all the smart birds fly south for winter. Still, I don’t like this transition of falling. No, it’s not seasonal affective disorder. It is the realization that there will be less pleasure and more pain over the next five months, and every now and again the cold hands of winter will steal a feel up my spine. “My God! I’ve been violated!”