Commentary & Opinion
12:43 pm
Sun November 3, 2013

David Nightingale: October/November

October transitions into November, and not all the leaves down yet. Some still hang, brown and a tinge of orange, waiting for real heavy gusts to decide for them, once and for all, and sweep them to their colleagues, to join the beige sacking that now covers our part of the earth.                  

Only six weeks ago all was green and vibrant – and we swam in a Catskills lake. We had almost forgotten how seasons change; how the driveway with virile grass sticking through would turn into wisps, dead leaves covering everything. A walk through the woods, put off because of mosquitoes, bees and ticks, is now almost unrecognizable – previous pathway lost under the crackle of dry leaves.

The sun comes through as far as the kitchen's rear wall now, shorter-lived and lower in the sky.

No more snakes – not even the two bears seen respectively in June and July; only the deer. More and more acclimatized to humans, the deer no longer run. They just watch. People walk by, and all they do is chew, with that circular staccato motion that is almost impudent. They stare, sometimes flicking ears and tail, but are too confidently lazy to run as they used to. I think they think they are nowadays part of the household.

My blue wheelbarrow, 25 years rusty, stands by the saw-horse, waiting for me to fill it with firewood.

The tomatos are shrivelled. Some still have fruit, unripened, green on one side, dark green on the other. Those stragglers that I brought in did not succeed. They went from green to black to rotten.

Flowers that hung outside since May are now inside. A red geranium, a white begonia, spider plants – and a massive rubber plant that enjoyed many summer showers, which cleaned its big dark leaves – back again now to collect winter's inescapable dust. Quite a chore that, dusting 100 leaves.

The sky has been blue these past many days. This morning it's such a pale blue as to be white, with ridges of thick grey piling up, and a weakened pale sun sometimes appearing between these ridges. It's not exactly cold outside, at 39 degrees – and there's work to be done, which may need gloves and wooly hat for a while, until the rhythm of piling logs gets the circulation going.

After Halloween the guns will come. We will put our clocks back and say goodbye to the gloriousness of the transition. If we ski or hike it'll be under good thick things, emulating the denser fur of animals. They will burrow, and so will we, by the fire. Some of us, further up the evolutionary scale perhaps, will merely turn a switch or thermostat.

Those dark ridges have now turned into two clearer things: heavy dark cloud in the west and sunlight in the east, with a wide tease of blue sky to remind us of six weeks ago. The black mailbox receives that radiation, but now only gets tepid to the touch, and only for a couple of hours a day, instead of nearly a burn, as in July.

In the middle of the day it's still mild, and smells good.

A lovely time of year, October / November in the north-east.

Dr. David Nightingale is Professor Emeritus of Physics at the State University of New York at New Paltz, and is the co-author of the text,  A Short Course in General Relativity.

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