Thursday, November 13, 2008

Long Shadows

This is the time of long shadows when autumn hangs from the precipice about to lose her hold and fall, and then winter will quietly slip into her place. On the mountain, the low and midlevel trees’ colors are at peak beauty, but the ridge-top forest’s leaves have already dropped. The insects have been through all their instars, mated, left their eggs to winter embrace, and then died, their genetic fate tenuous in the grip of chance. The katydids and conehead grasshoppers sing no more, leaving the quieter tree and field crickets to sing to the passing seasons until their fair-weather kin return. In spite of the insects' decline, the orb weaver on the porch stubbornly hangs on repairing her web every evening in hope of a meal. Autumn’s fruits and nuts, a convenient larder for birds and mammals, are everywhere like the beautyberries usually fed upon by grosbeak pilgrims, but this fall wereleft for others when the birds failed to appear at bounty’s table. The deer now pluck the vivid purple berries, and prune the delicate twig tips. 

The poke and dogwood berries will feed the odd remaining migrant, and the swelling population of winter residents. Back in October, in the willow I saw a yellow flash of wings and the yellow flash of fanning tails the telltale tic of redstarts. As daylight waned, they dove into arbor vitae for a well-deserved migratory rest. Nowadays, those colorful migrants are just memories of warm days past, and the white-throated and song sparrows’ songs fill the void left by summer nesters and passing migrants. Feeders wait the arrival of snowbirds, winter’s harbingers. Frosted open spaces hint at the winter to come, but still clinging to the small frost-free patches below blazing trees autumn remains.

Pam Croom ©: 2008

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