I, however, have remained at the ambivalent stage of things for the past few weeks. Now, sunset creeps ever earlier, the sky shifting sooner from pink to purple then black. The stars have shifted. The shadows have changed. The evenings chill with a crisp harbinger of fall, suggesting that perhaps a sweater is advisable after all.
The days are still warm. Some are even very warm. I still wear shorts most days and haven’t yet felt the need to start up the furnace, even if a small electric heater takes the chill off the air for a few hours in the morning. Now there is a ton of wood pellets in my basement, waiting for the stove. Another ton sits wrapped under a tarp and elevated on pallets outside.
Mornings turn crisp and a jacket is needed on the walk to school. The cool morning often fools both adults and children into choosing clothes that leave them sweating by day’s end. A ghostly snake of fog hovers over the river.
Then there is my laundry. Remember my laundry? Just as it tells me of the first days of spring and hints at the oncoming summer, so too it points me to fall. Good days for drying get fewer. Days are shorter, allowing one less load. The light filters through a veil of leaves, a veil which is getting slightly more sparse as they drop a few at a time. Soon there will be piles of brilliantly hued leaves from the red maple trees.
One other change is both subtle and dramatic. That is the silence. No, not the silence of a neighborhood back at work and school. This is the silence of nature. My trees were once a very noisy place. I cannot even tell you how many birds flocked to them in spring and summer. They feasted on the mulberries. They played on the branches and among the leaves. Every now and then a brilliant flash of yellow whizzed by as a goldfinch put in an appearance. The cardinals scolded the squirrels and the squirrels argued right back. They made one hell of a racket! This is not usually what one thinks of when calling to mind birdsong. You’ll find trilling melodies on relaxation recordings of all kinds. Believe it or not, my morning alarm is birds chirping. Probably few other people would notice this. Certainly my better half sleeps like a stone through it. He didn’t even realize that was my alarm until I told him. Then he reacted with surprise, “You’re joking, right? That wakes you up?”
It does. I promise. The sound of the birds in the early spring mornings is my first hint of what is to come. Now, as I hang my laundry, their sudden silence hints of change to come. I have been ambivalent about the change. While the intense heat and humidity of high summer leave me sweating and disinclined to move, I relish the luxury of extra hours of daylight. I don’t think much beyond the sun’s warmth. The start of school may signal an official end to summer, but I’m still not quite ready to move on.
Now nature grows just a little more quiet around me, and I begin to look forward to cooler, quieter times after the hurly-burly of summer. I’m ready to enjoy the cheery flicker of the pellet stove. I’m ready for my wooly sweaters and my long down coat, ready for mittens and soft scarves, for frost-nipped noses. I’m not quite ready for the additional, more intense changes of the long, cold winter that the wise old farmers hint we will have. That will be a time for different surprises and joys.
For now, I’m just enjoying the quiet and the colors while I wait for the next stage in the wheel of the year. It’s enough to know that even though winter is coming, there’s still time to prepare.