The End of Something

     I hate to see the geese fly south.
     California is burning up with wildfires, but it’s autumn in New England.
     Not officially, of course, but I stepped out on the porch Monday and it was 39 degrees.
     That’s the day I almost turned around on my bike ride to get a sweatshirt.
     It’s the day I stood in the sun and tried to tell myself I was warm – but I wasn’t.
     Not that I am complaining. Well, yes, I am. Not about the coming of glorious autumn – it’s that sickening slide into winter.
     This was probably the only week in the year that Vermont’s weather was better than California’s. Cold foggy mornings gave way to clear skies with light breezes and a few distant puffy clouds. Animals, wild and domestic, gorged themselves in the fields while the waterfalls and streams ran full. By Friday it was back into the 70s.
     But the end is near.
     It’s been a strange summer. A cold, wet June and a wet July. We waited all month for two dry days in a row so we could paint the garage. It never happened.
     The lettuce, tomatoes and rosebushes rotted. When summer finally arrived in mid-August, it had a bad attitude: mid-90s with Central American humidity. Then justlikethat summer was over. I heard honking from a traffic jam in the sky and looked up to see that first V of geese heading south.
     It may be the best week of year, but it feels like Sunday morning – you like it, but you wish it was still Saturday.
     During the hot spell I biked into the hills on a stormy day, lucked out and stayed at the edge of the storm for 20 miles. Aside from a few drops of rain and steam from the roads all I got was rainbows and delirious birds.
     Don’t tell me birds don’t have emotions like humans. Warblers and swallows, jays and orioles dived and soared in the last raindrops as the storm cleared. They weren’t hunting for protein, or maximizing their reproductive potential. They were having fun.
     Deer gorged at the edges of fields. Beavers repaired their dams. Wild turkeys were out, stupidly magnificent. Geese stood guard over their young ones fattening up for the trip, the first liquidambars turned orange and a great blue heron, strange as a dinosaur, stalked through a marshy field.
     There’s something too sad to be borne in the first intimations of autumn.
     Hurry, it says. Here it comes. What are you waiting for?
     These days of grace are wearing me out. Every day is beautiful as a knife. Yesterday I climbed into ski country and saw Mount Monadnock, 80 miles and six ranges away, blue in the distance.
     I tell myself it’s a battle between my brain and body to keep in shape, but that’s not how it is. It’s a battle between my brain and body and the rest of the universe.
     Bets, anyone?
     Ah, well. On Labor Day I’ll fire up the charcoal and flip chicken breasts in the fragrant smoke. Our dogs and cats will laze around on the back porch. And overheard, geese will line up in a giant arrow and deliver the news.

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