November 28, 2923

Nice fall day on the rail-trail.


Autumn wins you best by this, its mute appeal to sympathy for its decay.

-Robert Browning


It’s getting cold out now, at least for the next few days, with lows in the low 30s and highs in the low 40s.  That’s nothing that will stop Waldo and me from walking, but it does change how I dress.  With temps in the 40s, I can be very comfortable wearing rain pants and rain jacket over a light jacket.  If it gets much colder than that, I need to wear my parka.  Waldo and I wait until the warmest time of day, which is around 1 PM, but we can’t wait too long because the sun sets at 4:30 these days.  Even at its highest point in the sky, the sun is low enough at this latitude, at this time of year, to cast long shadows.  Winter is not far away.

The Emmy birds are now all gone — none answer my calls and I hear none talking amongst themselves.   There are still a few birds around, but not nearly as many as in the summer.  With the leaves in the trees gone, what birds there are can more easily be seen.  I’ve seen blue jays, crows, and a few sparrows, but not much else.  Things have gotten pretty quiet.  Although I’ve found ticks on Waldo, there aren’t any buzzing insects flying around disturbing the peace.   I don’t miss the mosquitoes at all…

The Japanese knotweed is all shriveled and vanishing down to its stalks sticking just a few inches above the ground.  The common burdock with is nasty balls of burrs are all gone and the moss and liverwort, although still present, doesn’t look as thick and fluffy as it did a month ago.  The garlic mustard is still around, as is the autumn olive, and of course, the English ivy tree is as green as ever.  Wild grape vines and poison ivy have chucked it in for the season, along with the orange jewelweed.  The leaves of the oaks and maples that still cling to their branches have all turned brown and the only trees that are still green are the white pines.

The air is chill and still, at least today, and city noises, normally cushioned by all the foliage, can be heard on the rail-trail.  The thrum of gasoline and diesel engines and the rasp of tires on asphalt can be easily heard even when their machines can’t be seen.  What a difference from the Bay Circuit Trail from two days ago!  As Waldo and I walk along, I feel much more a part of the city than I did there.

The view across Fort Meadow Reservoir has lost its color and is beginning to resemble a three days’ growth of gray beard.  The lake edge boasted a riotous display of reds and oranges just a month ago and now is lined by spindly bland spicules of sleeping wood reaching skyward.  The lake itself is calm and still, waiting for the first frost.  No more the home of goose, duck or swan, it lays there like a mirror, unmoved by beast or fish.

The air, brisk and fresh, no longer has the fecund odor of living things.  It’s been replaced by a faint musty smell of plant decay and muddy bogs.  No longer carrying the fragrance of wild flowers, or fresh cut grass, it now hosts a warming whiff of burning wood from some nearby fireplace.

My skin, not so long ago drenched with dripping sweat, making my shirt cling to my armpits and my hair plaster to my brow, now bubbles up with goose bumps and tingles as cold air wafts across whatever is exposed.  Just two months ago, I would be relishing the cooling breath of a light breeze or the dousing coolness of some shade.  Now I subliminally brace myself against the icy stir of air and poise to shiver to gain some warmth.

Late fall is a time of transition.  It’s the interim between the heat of summer and the cold of winter.  It’s the hiatus when Mother Nature is holding her breath, having quelled the raucous furor of summer while preparing for the harsh stillness of winter.  It’s not a bad time of year, but it does have something of the ambience of an old man laying down in his deathbed — not yet dead, but no longer fully alive either.  The difference is, Mother Nature isn’t dying, just going to sleep for a while.  After a time in the purgatory of winter, she will be raised once again in the renaissance of spring.

I pray that man can find some way to keep himself from screwing up this eternal cycle.


Lots of leaves on the ground at the railroad cut.

Leave a Reply