At 3:30 in the afternoon, the light is already beginning to decant, pouring itself over the ground in long golden fingers. Shadows stretch long and longer still, until all that remains of the daylight is gathered high in the dome of the sky. Outside my window the trees stand in varying stages of undress. Most of the red maples have lost their leaves but the branches of many of the sugar maples are still clad in buttery yellow. Larches have turned the color of caramel and oak leaves boast shades of burnt orange and leather brown.
The yard is leaf strewn. Now and then a sturdy gust of wind blows them skittering and chattering across the road or into the briars at the edge of the lawn where they catch and wave like dry little hands. Birds in similar colors – the brilliant red cardinal, the scarlet breasted house finch, the soft brown sparrow, the late-lingering goldfinch – flit about in the underbrush or come to the feeder in pairs to feast on seed. They do not sing the sun up in the morning as they do in summer. They limit their vocalizations to chirps and cheeps and leave the mornings to the crows and the jays whose strident calls vie with the rooster next door.
I find myself imitating the changes I see out of doors. I rise later like the sun and get sleepy earlier. I feel the urge to stock up on food the way the squirrels are doing, to eat more at one sitting like the birds. I walk less briskly, curl up on the sofa more often, slip into silence and contemplation more frequently. Conversations with trees and rocks and water become slower, less audible, as though the elements themselves were slipping into a semi-conscious state. Sometimes I feel the urge to pull the quilt of the clouded sky close around my shoulders and drift off to sleep with the bear and the caterpillar and the cinnamon colored chipmunk.
I’d do that except I don’t want to miss the winter. I love the wind that whips around the corner of the house and shouts down the chimney. I want to be out of doors when the sun comes up and splashes diamonds across the first snowfall. I want to catch snowdrops on my tongue and snowshoe through the quiet woods. I want to feel the bitter bite of ice and wind then assuage it by sitting inside before a blazing fire. There’s too much life and beauty in winter to waste months sleeping. Perhaps that’s why we humans stay awake.