So soon . . . autumn

Imagine my surprise when, last week, on August 15, I saw this.

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Embers where there will be flames of color soon

The signs of autumn approaching are creeping in everywhere.

Apple boxes are appearing in orchards, with harvest beginning.

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Apples are even falling from some trees.

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The reeds in the bay start to grow brown, from the bottom up, as do corn stalks.

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What’s more fun about the photos of the bay, are the herons. We see them all summer but they’re solitary birds so it was exciting to see four at one time.

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They nest very near.

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The geraniums, bottom right, are on our seawall.

Late summer on the lake . . . it’s getting quieter already.

Are you seeing signs of autumn? Or maybe spring?!

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Lessons from My Garden

 

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I ache all over.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time lately, and the better part of the last two two days, outside trying to bring some sense of order to our yard and gardens.

The temperature has been in the 60s (call it 18 celsius) and it’s been sunny, so it’s been a delight to be outdoors. But it’s hard work, is yard work. And since my husband had yet another ankle surgery last month, a lot of it is falling to me.

I learn, or re-learn, many lessons in these days of April.

  • This isn’t yet a lovely time of year. It has its moments and, all in all, it’s better than February, but April is pretty chilly, quite windy, and way too wet.
  • Living on a lake has its downside. Ever since we had to leave our home for 6 weeks several years ago, when Lake Champlain flooded and we could only get in the house by wearing chest waders, we have had a healthy, nervous respect for the lake in April. It’s high right now, into flood stage, but not yet really a problem . . . knock wood.
  • I now know where I planted my mother’s irises. We sold her place late last fall and I had to rush to dig up the irises and bring them here. And I had no idea where I put them! Now I know and I’m thrilled to see them. It’s good to have something new, and old, to look forward to.
  • All the leaves from upstate New York, most from Vermont, and quite a few from Canada blow in every late fall and form dense, thick mats on our lawn. The tops look dry but underneath they’re soaked and in spots still frozen. The Canadian encroachers bother me most and I think maybe we should build a wall.
  • The gym didn’t do me much good at all. I dutifully went, all winter long, and sweated on the treadmill and that elliptical thingy, and am still knackered after two hours raking.
  • The corollary to which is: the best overall way to stay fit is to do yard work.
  • I did a wretchedly bad job, just really lazy, of cleaning up the gardens last autumn, which is proof of another pivotal lesson of life: You can pay now or you can pay later.
  • I’ve been reminded that little things offer huge rewards after winter—that one golden crocus, the old cats that act like kittens again and zoom up trees, the bits of chartreuse that are thriving under the frozen mat of dead leaves—it’s that color that happens only in early spring and is so fleeting and perfect.
  • And I’ve learned, again, the pleasure of the bone-deep tiredness that comes from working outside, to care for our bit of Earth.

What lessons does your garden have to teach?

Beyond My Ability to Capture

They’ve come. 

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They’ve gone.

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And I still haven’t gotten a really good photo of them . . . 

Few things cause me more agita than seeing something spectacular and a little unusual and not being able to share it with you.

And for that reason, the snow geese that come through here on their migration have  been a source of great agita.

Every November, septo-quazillions of snow geese arrive. I think they choose this area because we have lots of water and protected bays as well as many, many corn fields that have recently been harvested. 

They are the absolute highlight of late autumn for me. I follow them around with a camera and, yet, I am never satisfied. I can’t capture the sheer numbers of them, I can’t capture the racket they make, I can’t capture the way their white wings, with the black tips, glitter against a blue sky, and the way a mass of them, rising from the lake, appear to be a storm of snowflakes, falling up.

The first time I ever saw them, I was taking a walk by the lake and could see a line of snow across the bay. But it was well above freezing and that couldn’t be snow . . .

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Plus it was moving.

My mother and I went to watch them a couple weeks ago. The geese were all placid and happy and chortling near shore. I said to my mom, “If I were a different kind of person, I’d throw a stone, just so we could see them all take off at once.”

A moment later, a small plane flew low overhead . . . and the geese all took off at once. And me, not quick enough to get a video that might’ve conveyed the majesty . . .

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A few days later, I drove home at twilight. We’d had snow that covered the ground and made it difficult for the geese to find leftover corn. But at that moment, three huge harvesters were at work in the fields . . . and uncountable geese were whirling and swirling and rising and falling around the harvesters.

A Thanksgiving all-you-can-eat buffet for hungry birds.

All along the rural road, cars pulled over to watch the scene. I sat and gawked and took a ton of photos and was so excited  . . . and the photos look like nothing special at all.

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Maybe some moments are not meant to be captured, to be frozen, to be stopped in time. 

Maybe the snow geese are simply to be experienced. 

Maybe you need to come next November and see them for yourself!

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Autumn Respite

It seems the internet and airwaves are awash with bad/crazy/scary news. I care about it all and am paying attention and cannot wait until next Tuesday, when I will be pressing my nose up against the window at my local polling place, eager to vote.

And yet . . . one needs a break. One needs a reminder that our world isn’t only bad/crazy/scary. You, my blog friends, offer many and excellent reminders of that. And I want to contribute my own, from my lovely part of the world.

Autumn has been awesome this year. It’s always my favorite time of year, here in upstate New York, in the Adirondack Mountains, near Lake Champlain. But this year the color of the trees, in addition to being bright, has persisted longer than usual or so it seems to me. A few trees fade and more have taken their place.

I can’t give you the freshening breeze that makes the leaves dance and sparkle. I can’t give you the tang of woodsmoke or the crunch of dry leaves beneath your feet. I can’t give you the snap of an Autumn Crisp apple or the sound of the snow geese as they make their raucous way south.

But I can give you the sights of autumn. Many, many sights of autumn. You can click on them as you choose . . . I just know I feel better having been out there, in our pretty world.

 

 

Post Script to Ice Out

I chortled and cheered yesterday about the ice leaving our bay on Lake Champlain.

I marveled at the movement of the water.

And my, how that water moved, driven by high winds, throwing wave upon wave to our seawall.

We had ice out . . . but also lots of ice ON!

All our red flower pots, the small fire pit, the limbs I’ve been clearing from the lawn, and every blade of grass on the lawn . . . all glowing, encased in ice.

Welcome to spring in the North Country of upstate New York . . . .

Ice Out!

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Snowdrops and daffodils. Robins and geese. Lambs and maple sap running and yellow-green buds on the weeping willow.

All lovely signs of spring.

Of all the signs that winter is over, though, one makes me happiest, makes my heart soar and loosens the tensions in my upper back.

And that is when the ice goes out of our bay. Finally. It is not the first sign of spring, by any means, but it is, for me, the most welcome.

In the late autumn, it seems the ice comes in quickly. One day the water will be slushy and, seemingly the next day, ice fishers will be out drilling holes and catching perch.

But once it’s formed that ice stays and stays . . . and stays.

The larger sections of Lake Champlain, areas known around here as the “broad lake,” might stay open all winter. But our little bay always freezes and for months we miss the sounds of water and the sight of water birds and any sign of movement.

This year, the ice held on in Monty’s Bay until yesterday.

In the morning, solid ice covered the entire bay.

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But the temperatures reached 50F, we’d had a good bit of rain, and the winds were gusting to 50 miles an hour, from just the right direction.

At 4 in the afternoon, I could see a dark band across the way—and movement.

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The band grew and widened, and water flowed near our seawall.

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By 7, three hours after I saw the first band, the ice was almost completely gone—big floes moving and breaking up.

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I could see birds wheeling above the open water and waves forming and movement. That’s the difference—there’s movement, where there had been none for months.

It will be a good while before we see kingfishers or sailboats or children playing in these waters. But that isn’t the point.

The point is, it’s official—spring is here!

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One day–what a difference!!

Fun with Ice and Snow. And Wind.

I was having a little lie-down yesterday, on a bitterly cold but sunny afternoon, when the usually-placid cat on the bed started growling.

She was looking intently out the window and I thought, “Racoon.”

Not hardly!

This para-skier swooped and flipped and flew outside our windows for an hour or more, in spite of wind chills well below zero. Later, another guy joined him, so we had a pair-a-skiers. (Sorry.)