far too much writing, far too many photos

Tuesday: all day long, beginning well before dawn, the local wet-blankets in the weather-forecasting biz warned of coming snow, of possibly impressive accumulations. Arriving during the night, assuring we’d have some kind of surprise waiting for us the following morning. And when I stepped out into the quiet darkness the next a.m. — up far, far too early, getting the day blearily underway — I found about half an inch on the ground and more coming down, blown by a frigid winter wind.

Half an inch: normal for this time of the year here. Most years, anywhere from one-half to two inches arrives at some point in October, melts away within a day or two, paves the way emotionally for the opening volleys of winter’s bona fide assault weeks later. That long, long winter.

Driving into Montpelier, a car ahead of me that had spent the night out in the elements — somewhere north of here where a bunch more snow apparently came down — shed chunks of crusty whiteness, pieces flying up into the air, splitting apart, disappearing into early morning darkness. At the gym, coat racks lightly used for months were suddenly stuffed with winter gear.

It tapered off for a while during the morning, reasserted itself around midday, quickly bringing white-out conditions. Temperatures in the mid-30’s guaranteed that accumulations remained minimal. Still, when I woke up this morning, two inches of snow covered everything. By mid-afternoon, spare sunlight had cleared big swaths of grass and roads lay clear.

Snow. Two days before Halloween. Had me thinking about leaving a brief, despairing poem about it on my answering machine instead of the usual efficient outgoing message. (I restrained myself.)

Twice during the afternoon, a sizeable pack of wild turkeys moved through the yard and around the house, foraging. Good-sized birds, not skinny or haggard looking. Could be that the arrival of this weather might mean the beginning of harder times for them, which might explain why critters as shy as they started hanging around the house.

And tomorrow: Halloween. I haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to this slow-building holiday hooha this time around, but it’ll be fun to go into town and watch all the activity — families out, kids in costumes, little hands carrying bags of booty. (As opposed to boo-tay, which would be difficult to stuff into most bags.) So that’s where I’ll be, meeting a friend who’ll be visiting for the weekend.

Anyway. Later.

España, te echo de menos

Late October, Vermont:

España, te echo de menos

Yesterday morning, 8 a.m. Walked out of the house into a cold, gray a.m., the first post-warm-season flurries falling. Quiet, a frigid breeze blowing, small flakes angling down. The season that reigns here through half the year giving northern vermont the first shot off its metaphoric bow. (Yeah, that’s right — metaphoric, not metaphorical. [I'm speaking to the add-'al'-to-all-adjectives fascists here.] Metaphoric. As in romantic. Historic. Democratic.)

Harrumph.

Got in the car, cranked the heat, started the drive into town, bleary as all get-out, doing the best imitation I could muster of a high-functioning adult human. A couple of miles along, rounding a curve where the two-lane passes a farmstand, a hunter stood by the side of the road — skinny, done up in hunting duds, holding a fancy, lethal-looking hunting bow. Expressionless, standing stock still, breath misting. Staring at the small market across the road, ignoring cars that whizzed by.

Nine days earlier, Columbus Day morning. Me making that same drive, a few miles down the road, outside Montpelier, where the Winooski River slows and pools at a dam. Some beautiful color still in evidence, eye-catching enough to get me to pull over, get out of the car, grab camera, take pics. At some point as I stood there, either a hunting season began or hunters scattered around the surrounding hills felt the collective urge to begin taking potshots at whatever caught their eye — gunshots erupted everywhere, continuing for several minutes, echoing off the hills. Continuing until I got back in the car (trying to walk calmly, like an adult who didn’t believe he was in imminent danger from a growing firearm frenzy) and took off. Sometimes Vermont is a strange place.

I completely forgot about Columbus Day, wondered idly during the drive why traffic was blessedly lighter than normal for a Monday a.m. Remained clueless until inside the gym, where a sign reminded everyone that parking was free that day (too late to keep me from making a small donation to the city). Ah, well.

Recent nights here have been well down into the ’20’s, leaving no doubt about the time of year that’s taking hold. Chickadees have begun hanging frantically about at the big window feeder, going through nearly half of it in a single day. And as the calendar entries have blown by, the background noise of state and national political hooha has become harder and harder to avoid, growing truly ugly as the days crept along. To the point that I’ve made a real effort to disengage from it all, choosing mental and emotional health over the growing noise.

The house goes on the market this week, I continue working away at things to be done indoors and outside. Gradually putting garden, rosebushes, etc. to rest for the winter. Slipping into the changes of daily rhythm that working with a heating stove means. Adjusting to ever-shorter hours of daylight. Like that. What will happen from here, we’ll see.

The days slip by, others take their place. Life rolls on.

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Mid-October, northern Vermont — the middle of nowhere:

España, te echo de menos

Today — temperature outside the house at 8:15 a.m.: 24F/-3C. A thick layer of frost covered everything in view, looking like newly-fallen snow. Cold enough that the farmers market in Montpelier, usually bustling with people and energy, was practically empty at the opening hour, the handful of humans who braved the brisk weather all bundled up in winter duds, looking the teeniest bit stunned at the weather’s sudden bite. No one seemed to have thought to wear gloves, complaints about aching hands were widespread. I could relate.

Virtually all autumn color is long past out away from town, the countryside looking more and more winterlike, making the ride into Montpelier increasingly gray/brown. Until the small bridge that demarcates the city line is crossed, when trees on both sides of the two-lane suddenly become bright with orange leaves. A huge, old tree looming behind stalls at the farmers market, still largely covered with leaves, had its spirit broken by the night’s intense cold and began letting go as the market got underway. A cascade of leaves came down, the few people around stopped to watch.

An upside to the plunge in temperature: the café I hang at got busy much earlier than usual for a Saturday a.m. –- people heading indoors instead of wandering cold local streets — the activity and sound of conversations a cheery backdrop for my slow swim toward consciousness.

Two weekends ago, friends made the trip up for the weekend, only the second or third visit by anyone in the 5+ months I’ve been here — I have to confess I’m a bit amazed at the lack of interest in coming up for what might be a final opportunity to stay in this beautiful place. Not to mention the lack of interest in volunteering for slave labor re: the ongoing work I’ve been wading through. (Grumble, grumble.) The visit featured abundant time spent preparing and sharing meals, me doing loads o’ clean-up and dishwashing amid the hooha, something my friends apparently saw as a slightly stressed (and possibly slightly anal) response on my part, making the occasional smiling comment about how relieved I’d be when they were gone. The opposite was the case. It was great to have activity, life, conversation in the living space, and that kind of getting domestic makes me happy — creating space, imposing temporary order, watching counters fill up again with food, plates, glasses, etc.

España, te echo de menos

After a dreary day of low, gray skies and driving October rain, it is so nice when it lets up before darkness descends, when late afternoon clouds give way to patches of blue sky.

But it’s even better — much better, far kinder — when overcast arrives during the night then thins out as the day starts, becoming mist that slowly melts away, leaving nothing but sunlight and beautiful autumn countryside. (Photo from two weeks ago.)

España, te echo de menos

Last week, pulling onto a backroad, I encountered a number of bicyclists, all done up in colorful biker gear, helmets in place, shades on. Tooling along in leisurely fashion, a group spread out along a lengthy stretch of road, chatting, waving. I continued on, passed the last of their number, rounded a curve and passed a slow-moving van — their van. Trailing after, monitoring, keeping watch — rounding them up at some point and carting them off. A nice way to pass a sunny autumn day.

Today, driving back from Montpelier, passing a tourist shop along the two-lane, spotted a similar van, saw bicyclists scattered around, chatting, pulling on gear — preparing to pedal off. Another group enjoying a sunny mid-October day. The last day, the local wet-blankets in the weather biz say, in this extended Indian summer that settled in here sometime last week. The longest stretch of Indian summer conditions that I remember, long enough that a couple of days ago mosquitoes and blackflies began hatching (after being killed off by cold nights in September). Weather so user-friendly it’s had me outside every afternoon scraping, sanding, painting, beginning pre-cold-weather garden clean-up. Slaving away like the… slavishly industrious… er… slave that I am. To me.

There are times when the quiet is broken by the songs of robins, migrating bunches stopping to hunt through the grass out in the yard — resting up, chowing down, then continuing south.

Most of the big color display is long gone around here now. Trees that had been holding onto leaves of eye-catching hues gave up during these last breezy, warm afternoons, showers of color flying out into the air, dispersing, some eventually settling to the grass, others making it to the road to cartwheel and tumble along, accumulating along either side of the lane.

Two weeks ago yesterday, a realtor came out to look through the house. An older guy, in his late 60’s, maybe 70. A good person, being very kind to the blathering individual who showed him around the place (the blathering individual would be me), the blatherer at times clearly suffering from deeply mixed emotions during the process. Since then, nothing. I have not been in particular rush about all this, so mostly let it be, continued working away at the mountain of things to be done. Called once last week to make sure he was still interested. He was but was buried by work and life events, I let him alone. Yesterday, the phone rang, I found him on the other end, telling me he was all set and wanted to bring me paperwork. That will happen tomorrow.

And speaking of the phone, I also found a long, strange message on my answer machine yesterday. A long, rambling political recording in the form of some nameless candidate — no name was provided, far as I could tell — doing a nearly ten-minute long Q&A with nameless questioners. The little bit I listened to frothed over with political buzzwords, but I found the politician’s ideology impossible to nail down. Could have been just about anything, at least to this uninterested listener. I did not delve into it too deeply. Pulled the cassette out of the machine, tossed it into a cassette player to find out where it ended and see if messages from anyone I actually wanted to listen to came after. None did. Hit rewind, dumped it back into answering machine, forgot about it. ‘Cause if I thought about it too much, it might piss me off. And it’s not worth the expenditure of calories. Seriously.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This morning, northern Vermont:

España, te echo de menos

Deep into October, the first two nights of hard frost arriving Monday and Tuesday. Temperatures well down in the 20’s, the world outside thickly frosted with white when daylight broke. Autumn color peaked two weeks ago in this northern corner of the Vermont — since then the landscape has been slowly shifting to the mix of gray/brown/evergreen/touches of silver that reigns during the cold months.

The morning after the first cold frost, trees that had been stubbornly holding on to their leaves let go, slow cascades of color coming down, carpeting backroads in swaths of bright yellow, bright orange, dark red. Next day, they’d become more of the brown accumulation of dead leaves that piles up along roadsides here, some rising up to cartwheel in one direction or another with the wind. Since then, daytime temperatures have coasted up to more user-friendly levels, the afternoons awash in sunlight — perfect days to get work done outdoors. Which has had me outside the house scraping, sanding, painting, occasionally dragging the mower out of the garage to get the final grass cutting of the year underway. I am nothing if not industrious when I finally get myself off my adorable keister and hop to it.

The remaining leaves have been coming down in fits — October breezes shake many loose, leaving branches progressively more naked, creating patches of open sky. And that is a funny aspect of this time of the year — the sense of the world opening up, more space for increasingly slanted sunlight to spill through, suddenly revealed views of countryside that had been hidden during the warm season.

Today, mid-afternoon: autumn insects make music in the grass, a light wind moves through bushes and the remaining leaves on trees. Apart from that, complete silence. Bits of milkweed fluff drift lazily through the air, their filaments shining in the sunlight, looking like feathery clusters of fibreoptics. Long clouds drift slowly above the mountains off to the north, hugging the horizon — above, the sky spreads out, a clear, cloudless blue. A breeze comes and goes, sheets hanging on the clothesline billow and wave slowly.

The air has warmed enough to make jeans and a t-shirt possible for work outside, though the breeze is cool enough to raise goosebumps. As soon as the sun slides down behind the tops of the trees across the road, the temperature will drop. Autumn may back off during these sweet afternoons, but it reasserts itself as evening comes on.

Indian summer — mid-October, northern Vermont.

España, te echo de menos

This evening, northern Vermont:

España, te echo de menos

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