Thoughts on well-being, sustainability and those things that constitute a good life beyond consumption.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

On the eve of the end of daylight savings

Tusker (the "Big T") enjoying a fall day earlier in the season - Photo by Corey Husic
Surrounded by a pile of grading, I decided it was time to have some “me-time" this afternoon.  It was simply too beautiful a day in late autumn not to.  So after a long grooming session, my aging gelding and I took to the trails for a leisurely saunter through meadows filled with the glistening gray seeds of Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and goldenrod (Solidago spp.).  The ashen seed color was akin to that of my horse before I brushed the field dirt and dried mud off.  Flea-ticked grey is the official coat term, but when clean, he looks pretty white to me.

The sky was unmarred with clouds, that beautiful pristine kind of blue.  The remnants of the anomalous snowstorm of last weekend were gone except for the new brush piles already inhabited by sparrows and some downed trees across the trails.  The “Big T” and I approach the first of these new barriers slowly.  Although he hasn’t jumped in years, he was trained as a hunter, so I am always conscious of the fact that he might not simply step over a log.  And he was the type that jumped all fences as if they were at least three feet.  But today, he turned and decided to reroute through the greenbrier (Smilax spp.).  He didn’t seem to mind the spines.  I did.  I could do without this plant even though it is a native and oddly enough, closely related to Daylilies, Lilies, and Yucca.  Even the deer rarely eat it.  But it is my neighbor, so we tolerate each other.

I could hear Bluebirds, but could not see them against the matching sky. Numerous Golden-crowned Kinglets were playing unusually low to the ground today – some in the new brush piles and some eating wild grapes off vines that had fallen from the weight of last week’s snow.  Fourteen inches we had, even before the first hard frost of the season.  Odd weather, especially for October, but that was not the case today.  A flawless early November day for plants to go on with their transition to dormancy, for Downy Woodpeckers to rummage for insects in the newly exposed vascular cambium where large limbs snapped off, and for me to find a sort of mental renewal.

Gone are most of the tree leaves on the north side of the mountain.  But yesterday, I noted quite a range of reds and golds still decorating the south-facing side of the ridge and, in town, in the valley, the leaves were almost at peak color condition.  That is on the trees which are still standing.  A few oaks in our woods are still holding on to their rust-orange ornamentation.  Normally, even more of these oaks would still have their fall foliage, but these too fell victim to the storm.  But other plants, non-natives mostly, still have green leaves.  The lilacs, along with the invasives—honeysuckle, olives, and barberry—are amongst these.  A lack of a killing freeze to date, this November 5th.  By the barn, one of my lilacs even has a few blossoms!  Confused shrubs indeed. 

Tonight, we turn the clocks back, so my time outside in daylight will become increasingly limited for a few months thanks to the demands of the academic workplace.  Up early, home late on too many days.  But today was about a gentle big soul and me meandering through new routes to avoid obstructions, listening to the high pitch sounds of winter resident birds, marveling at the yellow Witch hazel flowers (Hamamelis virginiana).  Witch, from wiche or wice, meaning "pliant" or "bendable”, but Wikipedia tells me that hazel twigs were once used as divining rods, possibly influencing the name of this shrub.  Even though Witch hazel is not a true hazel.

Pliant and resilient – these woods and fields.  Tolerating snow and cold and hot and drought, always changing, but always remaining—remaining for me, enabling a bit of solace after a frenzied week.  Pliant.  Not the “easily influenced” definition, but rather, as the antonym of inflexible, rigid, stiff.  If only nature could teach us all to bend a little in our lives, our daily routines, our attitudes.


  1. Beautiful setting, beautifully described. Thank you! And may you remain bewitchingly pliant and resilient in the gloaming months.

  2. I echo Stephen's comments. And I love that you called out the origin of the word "witch". Makes one think, huh? I have two trees planted on either side of my deck and when people marvel at their winter blooms, I relish telling them these are witch hazels.

  3. The winter blooms are indeed something to marvel at.

  4. Really enjoy your imageful words! Takes me there in the moment.
    We have had several frosts in the Ozarks, but strangely, it's 11/13 at 8:30 pm and it's 71 degrees outside this evening.

  5. I really like how you incorporated the meaning of the name 'witch hazel' at the end. There are so many names in our lives that we do not think twice about, but they can teach us so much about the world and ourselves.

  6. Thanks Gabby. Yes, here are many names and words that have fascinating origins and stories behind them. Greg, we had unusually warm weather in PA all through November. Apparently it was in the high 60's through Tuesday (I am in South Africa).

    I have lots of notes for this blog from the trip but have been focusing on the COP17 commentary on the college blog site.