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Turn Up Your Collar

By Will Baker

 

It is mid-October. Our pantry is getting full and this winter’s wood is neatly stacked. The planet Saturn is riding higher in the eastern sky each evening. The days are getting shorter, and when I awake in the mornings I am greeted by the sunrise. The farmers are taking their last cutting of hay, and most have plowed their fields over for the year. The page is turning.                                                                       

The sugar bush has no leaves. It’s standing naked with the other trees. The mountainside is all dusted with snow. Under an autumn sky a winter wind blows

Last week we had our first snow of the season. It happened while I was driving into the office. I must admit that I had some mixed feelings as I drove through the falling, swirling snow. I love the winter and each year look forward to its arrival, but autumn’s passing saddens me. This snowfall was not unexpected. Snow often falls in the middle of October in Vermont. And there were some clues to its coming. For the past two weeks snow has been visible on Camel’s Hump and Mount Mansfield. It has been my experience that when the snow starts accumulating in the mountains it will be falling in the valleys soon thereafter. Another clue was the appearance of the winter sky; dark billowing cumulus nimbus clouds with upturned edges, borne on winds that originated in the arctic.

The seasons change under the sky, continuous change, even after we die. And nothing is constant, nothing is wrong. Nothing remains the same for very long.

It won’t be long before we will be turning up our collars to the ice and snow, but that is just fine with me. The change of seasons makes me feel as though I am a part of something bigger than I am on my own. The foliage is waning; there are now large stands of trees, standing naked in the chill autumn breeze. And pretty soon they will be jutting up through the snow cover, like a forest of bones. And I know that I will have to get out there, to tromp in the snow amidst the trees, and to feel the bite of the air and hear the crunch under foot. There is something very special in the stillness of a snow-blanketed forest, where you can almost hear yourself think. At times I am compelled to walk deep in the forests of mid-winter, where quiet, still beauty is juxtaposed against unrelenting cold, where in times past, unfortunate travelers sometimes experienced deaths of muted violence, as they froze to death in the wilderness.

The times might be bad, and the times might be good. But what is the big deal when you have to stack wood? The seasons will be changing before very long. Nothing can stop it, and this isn't wrong.

Even though winter might be a metaphor for it, when I walk into the mid winter forest I am not thinking thoughts of death, but rather rebirth. This is my time of purification. Each winter I too "die", only to be reborn again in the spring. And if I spend my time wisely, I know that I may become something better than I was when the snows came. I have a dear friend who is always saying, "we are called forth in every moment to be something better than we now are." I believe that this is so true. When I walk in the forests of deep winter I am attempting to find that better person. When the days get shorter and the nights are long I read, write and sing and dance. Winter is the time of year when I look inside myself. I consider old notions, and take up new ones. And I look to the spring, when I too will burst forth.

The sugar bush has no leaves. It’s standing naked with the other trees. The mountainside is all dusted with snow. Under an autumn sky, a winter wind blows.

The seasons change under this sky, continuous change, even after we die. And nothing is constant, nothing is wrong. Nothing remains the same for very long.

The times might be bad, and the times might be good. But what’s the big deal when you have to stack wood? The seasons will be changing before very long. Nothing can stop it, and this isn't wrong.

Oh no, blow wind blow. Turn up your collar, the sky is spitting snow. Oh no, blow wind blow. Wintertime’s coming, so let summer go.

 

 

 

 (Essay Collection)