In Vermont, the leaves in autumn flare with color and light, like a lit match that burns out too soon; intense and brief, confined to the months of September and October. During my early morning coffee, the sunlight comes through the windows and finds me on the couch, blinking at the unexpected slant of light, sunlight’s lower angle at this time of day so much lower than in summertime.
On the drive to work, fields of corn grown for silage lose their green color in October, the standing stalks are wheat colored, and field by field they are harvested by choppers and dump trucks, driven to farm bunkers and packed down to ferment for feeding cows. The chopper drives through the fields, closely attended by dump trucks to catch the silage as it is chopped and poured from a chute on the chopper. Driving through our valley, with corn fields on either side, and then wooded mountains, we share the road with farm trucks loaded up with silage, speeding from farm bunkers to the fields and back, the wind swirling bits off of the truck loads, a swirl of gold through the air like the farm version of fairy dust (or dairy farm dust).
Birds whirl in flocks, across the road and across the fields, flying in loops and waves, a flying drift somehow in formation and never crashing. The wind helps the leaves from the trees, pushes single leaves in lonely flutters across the roads and fields, they accumulate in drifts when they meet an obstacle. Geese fly overhead, past smoky gray tree branches silhouetted dark against the sky, their movement towards the closing of the year.
Leaves and flocks and melancholy as the year comes to a close; I’m reminded of a long-ago visit to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, where in the dim halls along the open courtyard on the second floor are glass-topped wooden cases, and the glass is covered by screening fabric easily moved aside to peer below within the case at an extensive collection of handwritten letters, preserved thoughts, ancient signatures, famous names. Like leaves gathered and pinned, written and collected from a flock of writers now deceased, brilliant plumage now only preserved in cursive and spidery script, screened and shaded behind glass, hard to decipher, but a thread to the past and into thoughts and lives once lived.
This fall, as the season has turned, I’ve felt like something is missing. Narrowing it down, I just don’t feel like my usual self. When I tried to pin the feeling down and decipher it, I decided it was as if a thin thread of excitement and interest and intensity, a thread that usually serves to knit and bind the mundane of life together, a sparkling line of thread, an ingredient something like the effect of caffeine (but with glitter!), some sort of oomph and verve and mischief is missing. I’m in search of it; I really do need it back. I haven’t been writing much, and I think it might help to write more, and maybe if I not only write more, but read more, and choose to run on the treadmill rather than slog on the couch. I’ve been watching far too much television, and that hasn’t helped.
We bring in apples, using a ladder and a long-pole picker, and still so many remain that we cannot reach, the trees overgrown and high. We dry the heads of sunflowers packed with seeds, tucked into the coop rafters for the chickens (and the mice, although I wish they would find other accommodations), and pumpkins and squash are set out to cure. We gather laundry baskets of apples picked from the trees before a hard frost, and we make pie, and sauce, and dried apple rings. The chickens pick through fallen apples on the ground, their feathers fluffed.
The weather turns markedly colder in November, and it is now dark on my ride home from work. I check the main coop and the smaller coop by flashlight, collecting chilled eggs into a basket, counting to make sure all are in, securing the doors, and then heading for the house and dinner.
In the dark and the chill, with my flashlight, I remember the vibrant leaf color and warmth of the low-angled sunlight of the season, colorful and brief, a flare of light that doesn’t illuminate all the way through the dark evenings and muted colors of winter. I light a candle, and wait for the end of December when the days begin to lengthen.