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Posts Tagged ‘preparing for winter’

The house surprised by snow

Looking through the front window across the porch

The snow began to fall before dawn in the valleys of central Pennsylvania and across a wide swath of the Northeast. It was Saturday morning, and I watched through the window as I lay in bed, happy I would not have to jump up to take the shovels from the barn or clear the truck windshield before work.

The snow fell fast in big, wet flakes, tuning the lawn and the trees white, and covering the lawn chairs and the mower I had yet to put away for winter. My mind was still coming out of summer mode, barely even recognizing autumn, and totally forgetful of winter.

It turned out to be a day for the indoors, reading, cooking, and board games. My wife and daughter set up the card table and played several games of Ticket to Ride Europe, an intriguing game in which they build railroads across the continent to places with strange sounding names. I read the new novel based on the life and multiple loves of H.G. Wells by the English comic writer David Lodge. H.G., as he was usually known, was short and plump and brilliant, and inexplicably attractive to women.  I will hold off recommending the book until I have gotten through it, but I have enjoyed a number of Lodge’s past novels, and Wells is a fascinating character.

The snow fell all day and by this evening we will have six to eight inches at least. But Sunday the temperatures are expected to rise, and the snow may be forgotten. I remember a number of years ago when I worked for the newspaper and we had an early snow with the trees all still full of leaves, like they are now. We went to deliver an open route in the Park Forest neighborhood, near where my in-laws live in State College. As its name implies, Park Forest is a haven of trees, but on this early morning it looked like an aerial bombardment had passed through. The streets were impassable with broken limbs and fallen power lines. We saw where one huge limb had been driven straight through the front door of someone’s home. Trees lay against crushed roofs. We made our way on foot, delivering yesterday’s news to readers who had not yet woken up to their own disasters.

So far things seem quiet, at least in our little village. No sirens on the roads, and the power has stayed on all day. I was caught by surprise. The porch furniture is still uncovered and only yesterday did we think to move the porch plants indoors.  Time to wake up from this banal dream of summer and face the winter’s onset and the autumn’s fading light.

Snow falls on the lawn furniture

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The Autumn People

Later today, if the rain holds off, I will get out the lawn mower for the last time this season and cut the grass that has grown up without my noticing. This weekend or next it will be time to bring in the porch furniture, store the fans away in the attic and bring down the coats and sweaters from storage.

The first hard frost hit last Tuesday night and the end-of-season tomatoes and peppers have been picked and lie piled in baskets on the porch. Our own pumpkins never survived the dry summer, but we bought some nice ones from the Amish man at the farmer’s market this past Saturday at a good price. Most of the hard little apples have fallen from the apple tree in the front yard and lie hidden in the grass beneath a drift of yellow leaves.

It is time to say goodbye to summer and put away the shorts and t-shirts hanging on the hooks behind the closet door. Time to put away the fat, featherweight beach books and say hello to serious Russian novels with unpronounceable characters and book marks around page 45, where I abandoned them last winter.

Autumn comes so quickly to the ridges and valleys of central Pennsylvania. One day it is blue from horizon to horizon and the windows are wide open to the breeze. That night the furnace kicks on for the first time, and the shadows of afternoon reach from the front porch to the hedges by the road.

But now there is a zinging in the blood, as if from a jug of cider that has turned a little hard. The colors are all too bright to take in; the light slants down at an oblique angle, traveling slowly through air that has a solid dimension like antique glass. The space between us fills with an almost tangible substance like the ether that once was thought to fill all emptiness, and the smell of the leaf mold rises out of the damp ground.

I love the autumn. It fills me with grandiose dreams and visions that winter will put back to sleep. I like to hear the clock of the seasons ticking as the year winds down. I look forward to the day when the thin cotton bed spread gives way to the wool blanket. I like the color of fall clothes, jackets with heavy linings, and sweaters made of wool from the Hebrides or Scotland.

Today I may forget about the mowing altogether and pile the wife and kids into the car, and we’ll take a drive down the Penns Creek road where it curves between hills and the creek and the trees lean down and shake their leaves in the water. This is about as beautiful a place as I have ever seen in autumn, and it is all wrapped up in amazing colors, like a gift we’ve done nothing to deserve.

The fall is not for everyone. Some people are summer people and crave the long sunlit days, and some like the spring best when everything turns green like a resurrection. There are even some who find that the noble austerity of winter suits their souls. But the autumn people are made of a different strain, maybe passed on from some old Celtic gene handed down from Stonehenge days by ancestors who worshiped trees and rocks and believed in fairies and the Land of Sidhe where the fairies dwelled.

Whatever the reason, we are a melancholy tribe, and we like the fading colors of the year, ghost stories and old legends. We like sad songs, heartache, and noble failure. The autumn people see the world as a little darker than it really is; the summer people take it too lightly.

Autumn rarely lingers in this cold country and there is hardly time to enjoy a little sadness before winter comes. But while the rain holds off, I will take a drive up the valley through the farmlands that are three shades of gold in the afternoon light and wait until tomorrow to mow the lawn.

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