Tuesday, October 26, 2010


The pots of summer flowers still are blooming around the house this morning, but it is likely that their long season will end with a decisive frost Wednesday night. Although the look of autumn is unmistakable, we have continued to enjoy unseasonably mild and pleasant days. The furnace was cleaned and prepared for winter several weeks ago but has not yet been used.

I'm sure there will be complaints later on about cold and snow and ice, but I can't imagine living in a place where the seasons do not change decisively, making clearly evident the circle of life.

The last three tomatoes came in from the garden last night; I'll pick the rest of the peppers and rescue a plant or two to overwinter inside tomorrow, on Wednesday. Then, as frost and freeze continue, the great outdoor cleanup will begin. My fragile terra cotta planters, about 10 of them, all made in Vietnam, will not survive unless emptied and turned over.

Late Friday afternoon, I took to the four-mile trail around Red Haw lake --- taking advantage of the last sunshine (and dry trails) before predicted weekend rain. This is a beautiful hike at any time of the year, but I like it best when the heavy canopy has dissipated, leaves are turning or have fallen and the shapes of all the trees are evident.

I especially like these monster white birches near the boat-launching area on the lake's north shore. There are others at various places around Red Haw, but these are the largest.

At two spots, one at the end of the east shore inlet and another along a western inlet, I walked through vast congregations of birds of many varieties --- bluejays, finches, cardinals, robins, woodpeckers, blackbirds, etc. --- assembled for reasons that were not exactly clear to me. I've never seen so many birds of so many varieties together in one place; it was like walking through an aviary.

Most likely the robins, which seem to have vanished now, and blackbirds were grouping for the flight south. Most of others, however, are year-round residents.

The birds at home are congregating, too, around the feeders and birdbath --- goldfinches (now in drab winter feathers) and house finches fighting it out at thistle seed feeder; mourning doves, grackles and others elsewhere. Since the kitchen window looks out onto all this activity, I don't even mind washing dishes these days.


The automated telephone calls are coming in, too, as Election Day nears. I always hang up --- but regret the expenditure of adrenaline wasted during the rush to the phone in the first place to pick it up. I'm not getting at the moment a clear television signal from any station and need to recalibrate --- but that can wait until mid-November when all the silly and divisive political advertising has gone away. For now, I'll rely on the Web to stay informed.

The minor spectacle in Iowa this week involves a statewide bus tour by allegedly Christian "pro-family" leaders to encourage votes on the retention ballot against three Iowa Supreme Court justices who had a part in the unanimous court decision that allows same-sex marriage here. It is a purely symbolic campaign into which these groups reportedly have poured roughly $700,000.

It's difficult to say what the outcome will be, but surely there can be few things more absurdly hypocritcal than a bunch of enraged heterosexuals running around the state bleating about the "sanctity" of marriage. These after all are the folks who turned infidelity into sport and divorce into a growth industry. Oh well.

As for me, I'm going to be busy watching the last of leaves burst into flame and fall.

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