I awoke this morning to the tapping of a blue jay at the bird feeder. Cracking open one eye to see the dawn, I was half startled to see how bright it was. Everything was covered with wet snow. A near total white-out. That's a fun way to greet the winter's first snow fall; just open your eyes one morning and there it is. Kind of like someone leaving you a Christmas present in the night.
Cleaning the two inches of cold, wet snow off the car windows, I headed down the road on the seven-mile ride to Organic Valley. At the end of the road I live on stood a large group of crows, appearing blacker than black against the pure white snow. I slowed down as I passed. The reason for their gathering was plain to see: a dead deer, who probably had been hit by a car and made it a hundred feet or so before she ran out of life.
As I drove by, 25 crows rose with a chatter and with them, three bald eagles. I was surprised how little respect the crows showed for the eagles, showing little fear of His Royal Majesty. They all flew together, crow and eagle alike, and lit in a large snow-covered oak tree. I had to look closely to see the eagles' white heads, for they blended with the snow on the tree limbs. Quite a sight, all those crows and eagles. It made me feel better about the deer to see that its life was being passed on to so many others.
Further up the road I noticed three Canada geese standing in the snow-covered corn stubble. Their long black necks stretched high to see if I was danger. How absolutely beautiful black and white can be. I don't slow down much as I pass by, so as not to disturb them. They are close enough for me to see the bulges in their chops. They must not be having any trouble finding corn in the snow.
Wild geese are such a wonderful combination of strength and beauty. Their hearts are full of love and courage. A Canada goose will stay with its mate all its life and stand by them in times of danger.
When the water in the ponds and marshes freezes over, the geese will leave until spring brings a thaw.
The next day the snow was gone; the landscape seemed drab in comparison. Who knows how long it will be before there is snow again? It could be a week, or maybe a month or more. I remember years when there wasn't any snow until January, but I have also seen 12 inches of snow fall on the 10th of November and stay on the ground until spring. The couple of inches of snow that came on Monday night could have stayed around a little longer, but I was happy for the memories I got while it was here.
A week ago today, the thermometer dropped to 14 degrees at night. Today is sunny and near 60 degrees. That's how it is here in the fall, kind of like in the spring. A day or a week can mean a big difference in the weather.
A good friend said she had a basswood tree that had blown over in the wind. The 40-foot tree was mine if I wanted it. Most of the locals don't use softwood trees to burn in their woodstoves. The lightweight wood of basswood, cottonwood, poplar and willow burns hot but doesn't hold its coals long. The most sought-after firewood in these parts are red and white oak, sugar maple, hickory, ash and elm.
I'll find a use for the soft wood, for the outside campfire and the sweatlodge. Split and stacked inside the shed, the wood can be used all year round.
For now we are caught between fall and winter, and so is all the wildlife in this area. It's nature's way of preparing us for the long winter ahead.
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