I awoke early this morning, thrust groggily into the blue-black of pre-dawn by the dog’s restless pacing, the outside air cold as it’s been in many weeks. Later, after I’d milked and breakfasted, after the light had come, with Penny bustling over a simmering pot of pears from our top-secret roadside gleaning tree and the boys just emerging from their respective cocoons of sleep, I took the tractor to the other end of our property to retrieve a round bale for the cows. My breath streamed in the air, and I steered with one gloveless hand, the other tucked into the protective fold of my old wool jacket, the one that’s been missing three of its six buttons for at least four years now. For a time I thought I’d get around to sewing on some new fasteners, but it never happened, and now three seems the right number, anyway. I’m already anticipating getting by with two.
The foliage is spectacular, at peak or close enough to it, and since we’ve yet to have much wind or rain the trees have lost relatively few of their leaves. Right this very moment, the hardwood-forested hill across the mountain road is lit by a shaft of sunlight emerging from an otherwise socked-in sky, all yellows, oranges, reds, and golds. It’s an impressive sight, even for one born to this state, with more than four decades worth of Vermont autumns in his blood.
The cold always carries with it a certain urgency. I feel it now. There is still much to do before winter proper: Piles of softwood logs to be extracted and hauled, downed firewood logs to be skidded and bucked (the splitting is best saved for the colder months, when the moisture contained within the wood is frozen to expansive hardness, and the heat generated by the repeated swinging of the maul is a welcome respite rather than a burden to be borne), gardens to be put to bed, still a fat pig to leave this world, more piglets to procure. A living room window to be repositioned, one of those tasks I’m likely to put off until the day before first snow and maybe even longer.
Maybe even until a day so cold I’ll work bundled in that old woolen jacket, cursing how the wind blows through the openings where those three buttons used to be.