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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Changing of Seasons

I just brought the laundry in from the washline. The day started out bright and sunny but now the air is cold and damp with the feel of snow. It reminded me of a picturesque piece I clipped from a newspaper many years ago. Here it is.
Changing of Seasons
The dawn was made of smoky purples, grays and reds. It was like the background music for a movie about the Creation. Although the mood was somber, it was nothing you could really put your finger on. The colors were subtly intermingled and changed rapidly from one to the other and to mixtures of two or all three.
The day, according to the calendar, would be a November day and, after the nature of the brute, hardly anybody knew how it would all come out. It began brilliantly after its dawn had dissipated and the sun struck the east sides of houses and trees with a brightness that was altogether foreign to dusky November.
In this eleventh month of the year Nature's patience is running out. She is tired after having produced the bounty that fills barns and freezers and quart jars to feed animals and people through the winter ahead. Fatigue makes her fretful and the weather she brews in fit for neither man nor beast.
Sometimes, as in this year, there is snow before we are psychologically or physical prepared for it. Consider, if you require evidence, the bewilderment that struck us as we looked out upon a white world at a time it should have been green. Snow fence segments lie, still rolled, in fields and there was the unusual experience of the maples, spectacular in yellow---trimmed in white.
November is notable for its cold, dismal rains that slant into the faces of pedestrians and for sleet that dresses them and the objects of their culture in glassy sheaths. Its winds rattle doors and moan softly about the corners of houses in a tune-up for winter. They will become more proficient with rehearsals and, by January, should be in excellent voice.
Sometime in midmorning, long after the somber dawn had faded, a thick mass of forbidding clouds began to move out of the northwest in a line that stretched from horizon to horizon. There was no turbulence within the mass and its passage across the heavens was orderly, almost sedate.
The mass was not of a consistent thickness. In it were brighter areas of thinner cloud. Some parts of the mass moved a bit faster than others and in some areas had compressed the gray bulk ahead of them into formal rows until they resembled a squeezed accordion.
Torn By The Wind
Immediately preceding this darkening curtain across the overturned bowl of the sky was a wide line of thin, white cloud, ragged and torn on its leading edge by the winds. The larger mass retained its white border until there was nothing left of blue but a wide sliver that stretched across the southeastern sky.
The advancing clouds consumed the sliver in the end and the sky was gray from horizon to zenith over 360 degrees of its earth boundary. In the northwest, where it had all begun, the sky was a leaden gray curtain of uninterrupted gloom. This curtain was to bring a very brief spate of raindrops in midafternoon.
The countryside seemed moody and depressed under its heavy cloud cap. Farms appeared deserted, although, in Lancaster County, it must never be assumed that an absence of visible people means idleness--the work goes ahead inside buildings. Snow lay in patches about these buildings and there remained a light frosting on portions of their roofs. Where the blanket of snow on fields and meadows had melted or was very thin, strips of emerald green broke the monotony of adjoining brown fields.
There were still traces of color in the foliage of a woodlot that climbed a hill behind a snowy cornfield. The whiteness in the foreground accentuated the dim color in the woods that had been so brilliant a short week ago.
Most of the trees had lost their leaves. To the sycamores the absence of their crowns does not seem as great a loss as it does to other woody plants. The sycamores, with their whitish limbs exposed, are now the most spectacular and easily recognized of all the trees in the woods.
In the upper elevations where there was more snow originally and where more of it had remained there was the feeling that Thanksgiving was just around the next bend in the road. Warm feelings that accompanied this thought were supported by a thin column of smoke that rose from the chimney of a farmhouse where, in a few days, a turkey will be roasting in the oven. The smoke curled away from a northwesterly breeze that was not yet a wind.
A flock of starlings, perhaps the homeliest birds on earth, flew crazily overhead and landed clumsily in a field. Further on, for contrast, a pair of cock pheasants, bursting with pride at the glory of their own plumage, stood by the road and haughtily surveyed the landscape.
A lone gull made his way down the course of the river and disappeared into the gathering gloom of late afternoon. The surface of the Susquehanna was troubled by a breeze and its reflections of the hills opposite were indistinct, but not without a faint hint of color. Patches of snow shone among wooded areas on the tops of the York County hills. It seemed later than November over there.
There was no indication of it in the west when the day was over. The sky simply became more leaden and darker and evening settled in, chill and comfortless, around houses where lights came on. It had taken all day for it to become November.

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