Tuesday, October 12, 2010

10.4 It’s Cold


October. First full month of autumn. The classic fall weather month begins on the rough side. One nice day. Then it turns windy, cool, and rains.
Everything changes in October. It’s the obverse of April, freezing you with hints of winter, teasing you with nostalgic reprises of summer warmth.
I stop worrying about watering all the potted plants – and all the “sensitive plants” – and worry instead about turning on the heat, pulling all the storm windows down, finding warm socks and long-sleeved shirts. Other seasonal preoccupations: keeping my feet warm, making tea in the afternoon. Hoping it will turn warm again so we can breakfast outdoors a few more times. Wondering what I will find to do outdoors when it gets too cold to simply wander among the plants and, well, contemplate.
Outdoor lovers have nowhere to go. The honey bees begin stiffening on the flowers, caught in the act by the season’s unseasonable weather. Bees – as I have noticed when trying to take their picture – are always in motion when they’re on a plant. They don’t ever simply take five while digesting the nectar from, say, a fat red bee balm blossom. There is no balm for busy bees. When you see them stuck on a mum blossom after a cool rainy day, it’s a sign that the days of buzz and honey have come to an end.
Nature is changing the guard. The crickets have mostly been silenced. I see the grasshoppers still on occasion atop the flower stalks but they are reluctant to hop away; they let me get close enough to cup my hands around them. Moths seek the indoors, hanging some days against a newly lowered storm window. Only the spiders, a wary and resourceful tribe, are still at work. They suspend from a single strand attached beneath the shingles. When I turn the hose lazily in their direction, they ascend their rope ladders instantly like special forces in a training exercise.
The bird world is changing too. A woodpecker comes through and knocks away at the mulberry tree one afternoon, but after a day he is gone. Hawks are passing through as well. Crows gather at the exposed lip of the highest branches of a neighbor’s trees and bark away, behavior I take for the raptor early warning system.
At ground level the furry-tailed rodents are busier than I like to see. Where I disturb the ground, transplanting small migrants to new homes, they follow, digging up the loosened soil to see what I might have hidden.
I wait for that other, mellow face of autumn –

“Season of mist and mellow fruitfulness,
close bosom-friend of the maturing sun…”

-- that Keats depicts in the ode addressed “To Autumn.”

“Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind; \
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep…”

It’s the season of satiety, the poem suggests, among its various aspects. I’d agree that we’ve had enough of growing too, if only we could see a little more of that friendly, maturing sun.