I don't know what it is about the cold. It might be the way cold's stillness takes hold of everything...the atmosphere, your breath, your expectations. Focus becomes so sharply held when icy breath passes over your lips and you begin to see the truest signs that a change of season is here, all around.
The older summer butterflies have begun to die, we're seeing the baby leaves of carrots emerge from soil that is finally chilled to their liking and the goldenrods are no longer golden but spent and brown. I found a group of dead fritillaries, queen butterflies and painted moths just last week, piled together in a soft and beautiful grave under the tall red and pink canopy of zinnias, their favorite spot on the farm.
The way that coldness seems to suddenly appear around these parts--so little transition from warm months to cold ever happens--it's cause for surprise and a sudden scrambling for a Texan's winter wardrobe. I myself am always overdressed for winter. Flannel onesies, long johns, scarves, gloves, thick fuzzy hats and multiple coats. I consider it my winter fur, a putting-on of down and extra weight to carry me through--- for while I love the cold, I hate to be cold.
Of course, I'm not the only one in the animal kingdom who grandly prepares for winter. Since early October we've spotted the first groups of migrating Canada geese, but in recent days their far-away squawkings have settled in to become the cold-weather soundtrack of the morning, re-playing itself everyday. Only yesterday, a small group of them, 20 or so, circled round and round, finally settling for a brief spell in our neighboring hay field, directly in front of a cluster of beehives. I didn't get much work done in the 25 minutes before they took off again.
This year, I keep coming back to Mary Oliver's poem "Wild Geese," which I only learned earlier this year from my best friend. I'd not been familiar with Mary Oliver's work before, but I've happily welcomed this poem into my closet of favorites.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
May you be safe, bundled and content as the wind continues to chill and winter works its way closer and closer.