Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Autumn Into Winter

Grace’s excitement was unmistakable Monday morning, when she burst into the kitchen from outdoors to share the news.

“Emma…there’s ice on the puddle at the end of the driveway!” my soon-to-be-10-year-old exclaimed. “Come on…we can go break it!”

Ah yes…the puddle. The one that appeared late one summer as the crushed rock that coated my driveway began to settle into its muddy foundation while our resurfaced road forced a stream of groundwater toward the depression. It was the size of a stop sign then, a minor nuisance that often evaporated for weeks at a time before a heavy rainstorm allowed it to reemerge.

Continued settling and erosion over time has caused said puddle to become the Windsor Road Pond. Now six feet long, almost as wide and seven inches deep at its lowest point, it’s still too small for winter ice skating parties…but large enough for Canada geese to peruse on a break from their annual migration.

This permanent body of water is also the one on which – at least twice each winter – I become airborne when I lose footing on the thin layer of powder coating it as I venture out to retrieve the morning newspaper.

You can see why I fail to share Grace’s enthusiasm in learning the pond has started to freeze over. Unlike Grace, I envision potentially bad things waiting for me on the horizon… legendary pratfalls, bitter cold and hours of shoveling among them.

More important, the ice and heavy coating of frost that has layered our property this week is an undeniable sign that my favorite season in Maine is nearing an end.

Having lived within the boundaries of the Pine Tree State since birth, I learned long ago to appreciate the distinctive, changing seasons that embody my home state and its New England sisters. Each season is unique and beautiful. Since late childhood, however, I’ve known that autumn truly is my favorite.

It offers both beginnings –the fresh start of a school year – and endings – the tapering daylight that coincides with a garden ready for harvesting. It is a time of crisp, orchard-fresh apples, of wood smoke hanging heavily in the cool fall air, of weekend high school football games that galvanize Maine communities for an evening or afternoon of action, color and school fight songs played by young musicians.

Autumn, for me, also represents a time of high energy, a period of productive creativity. From the process of canning garden produce that overwhelms my small kitchen, to time spent crafting homebrew or hard cider, to writing…and photography…and coaxing tiny soccer players into kicking a ball away from their own goal and toward their opponent’s.

This is the time of year when I am at my best. And the positive attributes that early fall brings often diminish as the days grow colder and winter approaches. While not in full hibernation, they lie in a state of semi-dormancy until the nearing of springtime brings renewed vitality.

So while Grace eagerly awaits what lies ahead – her late November birthday, Christmas, snowmen and icicles and sledding – I’ll cling to the fleeting days of another Maine autumn…the most wonderful time of the year.

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