Early Winter Thoughts

It is just before 5 p.m.. The sun set a few minutes ago, far to the south of where it set during the summer.  Clouds over the lake obscured the sun as it made its descent, erasing what had been a promising sunset. Now, the sky overhead has cleared and the bare limbs of trees are silhouetted against the darkening early wintry sky.

Cold weather has yet to truly set in, although it has made a few brief appearances. The other morning we awoke to snow, the ground covered; it had been raining when we went to bed but changed to snow overnight. There are no major storms in sight, keeping with the tendency of truly wintry weather to set in ever later in December. When I moved here forty years ago winter often began before Thanksgiving, now its onset moves ever closer to Christmas. Continue reading

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Landscapes of Identity, Part One

This morning we are greeted by thick cloud; this following evening rain. Yesterday we experienced another record warm afternoon, an all too frequent event this long autumn. One of the side effects of this protracted warmth is the allergy season has been unusually severe.

I’ve taken to wearing suspenders! Looking in the mirror this morning I had to laugh, as my reflection showed a New England farmer sans pitchfork. I like it! Continue reading

“Indian Summer”


After the frost, warmth returns. We are now in Indian Summer, that period between first frost and the true onset of winter. The name “Indian Summer” seems to be of contested origins. I was always told that the name came from the colonists’ observation that Native people intensified hunting and gathering during the quiet time leading up to winter. Subsistence practices in colder temperate climates require that as much food and wood be put away as possible before the freeze sets in, yet the simple fact that much food is perishable means that food must be stored as late in the season as possible. Indian summer is, therefore, one of the few uses of the term “Indian” that refers to our perseverance and foresight, rather than being derogatory. Continue reading

High Holy Days

Each year, here in New England, Fall creeps down the mountains to the lakes and the ocean. A couple of weeks ago the weather was cool and damp, and our autumn color change was progressing rapidly. Then summer-like warmth and dryness returned and the change stopped abruptly, replaced by browning leaves and sudden leaf drop.

Something similar happened last year when, after a soggy first half of summer, drought set in. By mid-September we were pretty certain there would be no autumn color. Then, at the last moment, cool, rainy weather arrived saving the season. We’re hoping for another miraculous turnaround this year. Continue reading