far too much writing, far too many photos

Today felt to me like the season’s first shot of pure, undiluted autumn weather. Not that elements of autumn haven’t been around these last weeks. Just that this day hit the nail on the head — looked like autumn, felt like autumn, smelled like autumn. The real item: bright sunshine, passing clouds changing blue skies in dramatic ways. Cool, even brisk. And color everywhere, a sudden, drastic leaping past the gradual, mostly low-key display we’ve had to this point.

This last weekend brought periods of heavy rainfall — a scarce commodity in recent weeks. Periods of rain, periods of sun, insistent breezes, and days growing undeniably shorter. The result: a sudden explosion of color, brilliant and vivid. Everywhere, all over the landscape. A blossoming of autumn, practically overnight. Meaning any folks who were thinking of driving north this coming weekend are going to get an eyeful.

A day like this comes along, I remember all over again how much I love this time of year, how good this season feels (despite the waning hours of sunlight).

So I made the trip into town around midday, did what needed to be done — gym, errands, all that. Came back home, was about to sit down, get some work done. Late afternoon sunlight poured through the kitchen and dining room windows. I got the impulse to step outside, did so. It was warm enough, the sun intense enough, that it occured to me some plants might appreciate a splash of water. I picked up the garden hose, walked over by the tomato rings, where a spider web, newly spun across the side of one of the rings, caught the light in a way impossible to miss, its owner planted right in the center. A big, beautiful creature, yellow and black.

Damn, that kind of thing gets me excited. (Aren’t you glad you don’t have to live with me?)


Not That You Asked Dept. –

Currently in residence in my CD player:

World Without TearsLucinda Williams

End of the CenturyRamones

Fever In Fever OutLuscious Jackson

A New Stereophonic SoundHooverphonic

Super Session — Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Steven Stills

The Oliver bloopers. (”Good doggy. Good boy. Come on now, hold still. Hold still, Oliver. *#@^%!!, hold still!!”)

There is no Daisy.

Mr. Pointy takes over Rockefeller Center.

Webcams, webcams, webcams!

And this morning’s sunrise — a long, drawn-out affair that couldn’t make up its mind how it wanted to look:

Leaves have been flying through the air here these last two or three days — sun and clouds trading off unpredictably, a stiff, spirited breeze blowing, sweeping shards of orange and yellow off trees in rustling waves of motion. Trees once reluctant to turn are now showing color, others already well along now show bare branches.

Classic New England autumn stuff.

Over the last three or four days, birds from more northerly locales have been making pit stops here on the way south. Out doing some work off the far end of the house about three afternoons back, I heard a robin’s call, something that’s been absent in these parts since mid-August. The next morning robins were everywhere, spread out across the expanses of grass around the house, hunting for breakfast. Fueling up for the next leg of the ride. Other birds have been around, too, warblers and what looked like barn swallows. All of a hardier breed than the buggers that summer here.

And monarch butterflies have been passing through, wandering by in the afternoons, alighting on the red hawkweed blossoms that have sprouted up these last weeks in a final, late-warm-season binge.

Beautiful, all of it, a kind of affecting beauty that goes far beyond the visuals that draw crowds of leaf-peepers to Vermont at this time of year like camera-wielding iron filings to a mountainous, multi-colored magnet. (Yes, I know, it’s a weak, garish metaphor. I know. And I don’t care.)

Meanwhile, I managed to find my way into a local poker game (yesterday evening, in fact), something I haven’t been a part of for a while — three, close to four years. There was a period there when that kind of thing was a regular feature of my life. (I said something at last night’s game about a three or so year period, but it went on far longer than that in long, sometimes fitful spells, with a couple of different groups; far longer still if evenings spent playing hearts with some cohorts are tossed into the mix.) Up until my life shifted itself up here from Cambridge, Mass., then across the Atlantic.

They were always competitive affairs, those games, but the point was a good time, get-togethers with conversation, laughter, all that, not raking in megabucks or grinding one’s opponents into the dust. Meaning that while there may have been the occasional cigar ignited or beer bottle tipped up, the events were low-stakes — nickels, dimes, quarters rather than dollar-and-upward demo derbies.

There is a high-stakes game of many years standing up here, in a neighboring town, one with which David Mamet has been associated, one with an aroma of testosterone. The game I weaseled my way into last night was a coed deal, all folks I’d never met before apart from the person who provided me entrée (the very nice person who provided me entrée, an attractive, intelligent woman who’s recently become part of the weekly Spanish-speaking get-together I’m part of when I’m on this side of the Atlantic).

[more to come]

What I said yesterday about that forecast not panning out? This morning: Cold. Gray. Foggy.

Grumble, grumble.

However, as the old New England saying goes: “Don’t like the weather? Wait ten minutes.”

A short time later:

Aaaahhhhh — much better.

Cold? Gray? Rainy? I am absurdly pleased when that kind of forecast doesn’t pan out.

September 25, 2003 — early morning:

You may have noticed that there hasn’t been much writing going on here lately. It’s the #*&^@!! digital camera. I scamper about in a near-foaming frenzy whenever anything vaguely resembling a photo op catches my eye. (A happy near-foaming frenzy, but still.) I tinker with the resulting blizzard of photos, resizing them, resizing them again, pasting them on this page. I re-paste, I re-re-paste, I reorganize, I re-re-re-paste. That’s a full day right there, forget tending to the rest of my existence.

It’s a good thing when new interests hijack one’s life, isn’t it? (Just say yes.)

Yesterday: big rain, falling water pounding away on the roof through the night, the morning and the afternoon. Come evening, the clouds cleared out, brief sunlight gave way to early darkness and a cold night. Today: morning fog burned off, the temperature sailed up into the 70s.

Folks walked around Montpelier in summer clothes, happy, smiling. Until the sun approached the western horizon, when the temperature careened downward and happy, smiling people in summer clothes became underdressed expanses of gooseflesh, rubbing arms to counteract sudden chill, staring at each other in wide-eyed disbelief at the sudden shift from summer to early winter.

I happened to hear a weather report today in which gradually cooling temperatures were predicted for the coming days, with the possibility of the season’s first snow showers next week. That’s right: Snow. Showers. Here. Next week. (Aaaaiiiiieeee!!!)

Needless to say, that got me pulling apart the stovepipes in hasty preparation for pre-season cleaning. I’ll clean and reassemble them tomorrow (which, if one is to believe the same weather people who are terrifying us with talk of approaching snow, will be cold, gray, rainy) and I will not hesitate to fire up the coal stove should the indoor temperature get my breath misting.

Despite the unnerving conditions in Montpelier, at least two people remained hard at work posting handbills on Main Street, in the face of meterological goofiness.

Handbill #1:

“Edified Presents


Friday, Oct. 10

9 p.m. until ??

The Caspian Lake Grange Hall

Greensboro, VT”

Handbill #2:

“Want to feel

awesome and

fulfill your



“come to an 8-week workshop at yoga

mountain to learn the basic game rules.

“for the life you choose. think fun.”

Spiderwebs seen here in recent days:

Seeing things.

Making faces.

Galileo: gone.

Yesterday: the Women’s World Cup 2003 started up.

(The U.S. national team plays today at 12:30.)

Today: Galileo goes down.

Remember what I wrote two entries back about this dry spell and the local weather folks predicting bunches of showers from Isabel’s spin-off? Remember that? No dice. No soap. (No rain.) Lots of wild weather, though, beginning with the big sunrise [see yesterday's entry]. Clouds moved in soon after, along with big wind. Trees began whipping about in dramatic fashion, leaves coming down. Dark clouds raced across the sky, ghostly light shining through big ragged holes in the grays and gun-metal blues.

No trees came down, at least around here. No power outages. Just visual drama and the sound of unruly, hard-blowing wind.

And today? Warm. Sunny. Almost summer-like. I drove into Montpelier along back roads, everything sedate. Tourists had the town nicely busy, getting a load of what autumn color there is to this point. Young folks strolled around in t-shirts, baggy shorts, sandals. Two twenty-somethings sat on a curb, engaged in slouching conversation, one wearing a huge hat made of shaggy, dark blue fake fur, the headgear pulled way down, leaving only the mouth uncovered. Where the North Branch River runs under State Street, a father and son sat together (40-something and 20-something) on one of the tired wooden benches, soaking up slanting late-afternoon sunlight, talking, people-watching. The Ben and Jerry’s on Main Street did good business, folks drifting in and out of the shop, standing outside talking, ice cream cups in hand, raising their faces into the sunlight, eyes half-closed. A gentle breeze made its way through the scene now and then, faded yellow leaves drifting by.

September, tilting toward October. Pumpkins are well-represented at all farm stands, in the town’s supermarket. On my ride home along Route 14, they stood out among rows of green as bright spots of orange. Future jack-o-lanterns, still fattening up.

Yesterday’s intense weather’s moved on, leaving behind a warm Vermont Saturday. Bucolic as all get-out, just a day or two shy of autumn’s official start.

And the year rolls on.

This morning’s sunrise — an extravaganza brought to us courtesy of Isabel, en route to the Great Lakes from the mid-Atlantic coast.

Spent most of the day — another warm, golden autumn day — in Montpelier and Burlington. The morning that began chilly and fogbound gave way to blue skies, abundant sunshine. During the course of the afternoon, high clouds began filtering in. By the time I returned home, a mackeral sky had spread itself out overhead, thickening clouds to the west began to thin the sunlight. Part of Isabel’s long reach, which the weather folk claim will bring rain this way tomorrow and/or Saturday. The country around here could use it. The last 2-1/2 weeks have brought little rain, to the point that the autumn that started early and strong in late August has backed off in recent days, its colors beginning to fade from lack of moisture. Driving home along back roads this afternoon, I passed through long stretches where the leaves on many trees had turned pale brown or lackluster yellow instead of more vibrant colors, curling sadly up, coming down with the breeze.

Ran into one of my uphill neighbors in Montpelier, up here on her own for a week while her husband and daughter remain in D.C. where the family lives most of the year. She said schools in D.C. are closed today and tomorrow due to Isabel, causing major celebration among the younger set at the sudden long weekend.

A loved one in Greensboro, N.C. sent the following via email around 4 p.m.:

The wind has picked up here considerably just in the last hour. We won’t get much rain out of this, but the wind is blowing pretty hard… trees thrashing about big time. Could be some power outages. Schools were let out early today in anticipation of what is going on right now.

Just went to let [the dog] in and saw two large branches that had been dangling in the oak from the ice storm… now laying on the ground. That’s good, don’t have to figure out how to get them out now. :-) But on the way down, they appear to have broken another one — which is now dangling. Maybe the next ice storm will bring it out. Heh.

It’s one of those days when everybody’s talkin’ about the weather.

The dry spell may have cut down on the seasonal eye candy a bit, but the wildlife has carried on according to schedule. The hummingbirds disappeared about two weeks ago, probably now somewhere enjoying warmer nights than we’ve had here. The robins have been been gone since the first half of August. Most of the goldfinches and purple finches have fled south, though a few malingerers remain, taking advantage of the lack of competition at my bird feeders. Bears have been showing up near homes and farms, cleaning out suet feeders, getting into compost bins, foraging in fields of crops — packing on the pounds before the long winter nap. Grouse are suddenly easily encountered, usually hanging out near roads like the one on the hill here, not heavily travelled. Woolly caterpillars have appeared. And hunters’ gunshots ring out now and then, providing more incentive for critters to head south (or into hiding).

The days, though beautiful, grow rapidly shorter. The equinox looms. The trees will empty out, Halloween will gallop into view. November will settle in.

It moves right along, this life, days and nights blowing by like the leaves that blow through the September air, passing quickly by, many shining with unexpected colors before blending together, fading away.

My night was filled with emotional dreams involving friends and acquaintances, some of long standing, others newer to my life. And when I woke up, was I thinking about people I’ve known, folks who’ve meant something to me? No, my teeny little brain was preoccupied with (a) singing the chorus of California Über Alles over and over again, and (b) trying to figure out how I might convince some truculent #*%&!!! software I’ve got to convert a bmp image to a jpg image (the fruit of my current digital camera infatuation).

I drive to Burlington today to have lunch with an old friend, someone I haven’t seen in a couple of years. A possible prod for last night’s dreams.

Autumn has been coming on in classic fashion — chilly nights, warm, brilliant days, the colors gathering slowly. Some trees remain green, many others are now frosted with yellows, oranges, reds. Others have made the leap to full, blazing technicolor — awe-inspiring displays. And I will do my pitiful best to get a little bit of it on the digital equivalent of film.

Mid-September here on the hill, about 15 miles northeast of Montpelier, Vermont –

Dave Barry is bothering telemarketers. See the Sept. 14th entry of his blog.

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