Frost art

I would love autumn more if it weren’t the prelude to winter. One of nature’s ironies, then, like a butterfly face, is that such a lovely season portends a longer, cold, dead one. Or is it not irony, but gentleness? If you think of these things as part of a plan (or perhaps even if you don’t) then maybe autumn is nature’s way of easing its occupants carefully into winter. When September arrives, it’s still summertime, and there is no evidence that decay is looming. Then the goldenrod comes, and maybe the weather is hot and steamy or maybe it’s not, but the greenness of the world starts taking on a worn cast, and the verdancy of summer starts looking less durable, by just a hint. The temperature lowers to pleasant at least, but by mid-September there’s been a night cold enough to send the hummingbirds on their way.

And then the month changes, and by mid-October it becomes impossible to pretend that summer isn’t gone. Before that you can kid yourself a little, because the petunias are still in flower, the trees are mostly green despite those touches of brown, and you’re still getting a few tomatoes. A few hummingbirds who spent the summer in Michigan hit the feeder on their way south. But then you wake up one day and frost is decorating the tips of still-fresh plants and you know that it’s gone. But it’ll be back. Now it’s time to let go and breathe the chill, crunch the leaves, and surrender to the season. Autumn rewards us for that surrender with vivid colors and gentle ambient light, along with mushrooms, big orange harvest moons and many V’s of flying geese. And I love it, but I love it always with the awareness that it’s sending me into a season that troubles me.

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3 thoughts on “Chill

  1. Maybe it’s just the gardener in me, but I don’t think of Winter as a dead season at all. In fact, the colder it gets – the more excited I get. I just try to picture what’s going on underground – root systems are expanding and getting stronger. The plants can focus on foundational strength instead of putting all their energy into blooming out their own fireworks displays. Larvae I don’t like are getting wiped out. Ice & storms thin out the weak or dead branches from trees so that the whole can become stronger. Winter is when nature does it’s housekeeping – to strengthen the whole of nature itself.

    And you get to see things that you don’t otherwise – all kinds of tracks in the snow. We have whole herds of deer around my work campus that we see 2-3 of at a time once in awhile. In Winter, you see their tracks all around the front doors of the buildings and you can tell that they cut through the parking garages.

    It’s all perspective, but trust me – Winter is not dead. It’s just Mother Nature’s dust rag.

    1. I don’t disagree with you here. But it *feels* dead to me. At a base and uninspiring level, it’s probably because the lack of sunlight dulls me significantly. Also, any season in which I am physically uncomfortable being outside for long periods of time is trouble for me. I felt the same during the 110 degree drought this summer. Finally, in Indiana there is a stark colorlessness. Perhaps a better way for me to say this — and now I thank you for refining my thinking — is that *I* feel dead in the winter. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an intense season, especially when I can get out in it or the sun appears. Nature is no less alive, I acknowledge that; I’ve written a lot about stories wrought in snow. 🙂 But I feel less alive.

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