This day began with a hundred geese that rose from the pond at dawn and flew eastward into the sun, the light gilding their undersides. Their cries roused me from sleep, stirring some ancient longing to flee the coming cold. I look out my window at the colors of winter, the buff colored grasses, the shadowed woods, the trees inked in black against a steel sky, and watch the sun paint it all with a gold that spills slowly over the bare tops of the trees and into my yard.
Except for a few days last week when the temperature dipped into the 30s overnight, the weather has been mild. October was a glorious riot of color and somber November has so far boasted temperatures into the 50s. I set off into the early morning with only a jacket. Great drifts of mahogany leaves line the road and here and there a few bittersweet berries glow orange. The pond is a pewter plate, empty now of geese until the afternoon. The mornings belong to the crow and the jay, the chickadee, and the flocks of little purple finches that winter over. The cardinal that sings me awake at 4:30 on summer mornings is silent now, though I’ve seen him at the feeder, he and his dun-colored mate, eating the sunflower seeds I’ve set out for them.
The roadside brush is showing its bones. Great tangled vines of bittersweet curl over leafless bushes. Milkweed pods have dried and burst. I stop to release a last bit of gossamer fluff into the wind, sending the attached seeds on their journey, wondering, as I watch them lift and disappear, where the winter winds might take me. There are times when my life seems as insubstantial as milkweed fluff and I, too, am at the mercy of the prevailing wind.
By noon, the sun is still only a few feet over the horizon and as it descends into the afternoon, the air grows cooler and the wind quiets. By five o’clock the sky is violet and then gray. Night drops its cloak over the day and stars are visible by suppertime. I close the curtains against the dark and listen to the geese gabbling on the pond. One day soon they will fly south instead of east. Despite what the calendar says, that will be, for me, the day winter begins.