Autumn Leaves

     In autumn in New England the colors of sunset drain into the leaves. Red, yellow and gold – it’s exciting until the leaves fall. Then there’s no color anymore for 5 months.
     It’s been drizzling for nine days, from a slaty sky. Not even raining, just a gray, bureaucratic drizzle. No sun, no sunset, no sunrise. Nature in gloom. Colors haven’t come to the leaves yet. Just a bit of yellow. The wind and rain blow them down, dull brown.
     It’s no place for a depressive to live. Helps you understand Dostoyevsky, though.
     Once in a while a blustery wind blows some clouds away and you see where the noise is coming from, high up in the air – long Vs of geese, heading south. Yesterday I counted more than 100 in one flock, hollering who knows what at one another as they beat their way through the air. They sounded like Brooklyn cab drivers.
     Woodchucks are fatter than ever, and wild turkeys appear from the woods. With their magnificent tails fanned out to impress their harems, Tom turkeys are beautiful birds – not too bright, though. You never see them until they step into the fields just in time to be shot.
     Hunters don’t even bother to call in sick to work here when deer season starts. They just tell their boss they’re going hunting. Or go hunting with him.
     Yesterday a baby deer no bigger than my giant Akita stared at us as we walked in the hills. He wasn’t old enough to be scared yet, until Chester took off after him, dragging me behind on his 100-foot leash. That got the little guy’s attention. He bounded off one way and his mom ran the other, then Chester trotted back to me, grinning.
     I drove down to Washington, D.C. recently to pay a family visit. Past New York City, over the Jersey Turnpike, the Delaware toll road, past Baltimore. It reminded me how much I like Vermont.
     Coming home, leaving Washington at 6:30 a.m. on a Monday, I drove past miles and miles of headlights coming from Baltimore: four lanes poking along, an endless stream of lights. Billions of dollars worth of cars, gasoline, technology, radios, jobs, insurance, traffic and weather reports. It’s prosperity. God, I found it depressing.
     Maybe it’s the season, the low, granite sky, the half-bare trees, the waiting for color as leaves fall.
     Around here stores sell T-shirts that say, “What happens in Vermont stays in Vermont – but nothing happens.”
     Stuff does happen, of course. It just happens slowly. Seasons change. Canada geese gather in ponds and meadows. They hang around eating for a few weeks, then one day they’re gone. Turtles stop sunning themselves on logs, dig holes and go to sleep.
     When winter comes, when it hits 30 below, sometimes you can hear sap freeze in the trees. Crack!, it goes.
     I used to live in New York City. Tried to be a jazz musician. I was a newspaper reporter and editor in cities for years, chasing stories, chasing people, trying to get one more interview, looking for people who didn’t want to talk to me. I liked it.
     Now I like watching the slow changes around me. Wondering what Chester finds so interesting about that tree rather than the other one. Looking for a good oak tree – one whose inner leaves turn gold as its outer leaves turn crimson, so the tree looks like an explosion.

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