Cold Snap


Last week, the backyard weather station reported 55.3 degrees. Yesterday, it showed a temperataure of 5.3 degrees; a 50 degree drop, a cold snap.

Given the recent temperatures, the crew at Elk just couldn’t keep themselves from making snow. The familiar glow of snow plumes over lit trails appeared on the horizon this week.

Awakening to the sound of a stiff wind, but seeing no branches moving, opening the back door revealed sharp, still, cold air – not even a breeze – confirming that the sound, indeed was not from wind, or a far-away jet plane, but from the battery of hardworking snow guns.

Everyone seems to be gearing up for the winter; cold and extra hungry meanwhile. A friend noticed and admired the extra big wool socks I was wearing, then showed his recent purchase of a new pair of muck boots, and big wool socks to go with them. Mostly everyone has abandoned baseball caps for stout, warm toques that cover their ears.

Though eating more than usual, the recent cold has melted a couple of pounds off of me. Given the fridgid temperatures, the long anticipated winter coat delivered yesterday just doesn’t look warm enough as it did in the photos. The dog doesn’t dawdle much when taking care of business in this cold, and runs quickly back to the warmth of the house.

Fairly thorough fall cleaning of the house before the cold snap revealed no evidence of mouse activity. Last week a visitor chirped “OH! You have a mouse!” noting the little fellow as he scurried across the floor; visual confirmation that my gap sealing and house cleaning had been ineffective.

Wishing that he would just stay out of my space, reluctantly, I baited a mouse trap with peanut butter to catch the perpetrator, set the trap out and waited. Checking the trap a few hours later, I found it unsprung, set just as I had left it, with no trace of peanut butter remaining.

Adding insult to poaching bait without springing the trap, I returned home that evening to find the mouse commiserating over the cold, snuggling for warmth with my faithful Labrador! Both of them assumed a somewhat sheepish demeanor as the mouse lapped my shoes a couple of times before disappearing into safety under the closet door.

Twice yesterday I had to re-pack the trash bags left outside for pickup. Mr. Crow pecked through the plastic, and decided to breakfast on whatever he could find. Later, I saw him flying proudly through the yard, a booty of uncooked bacon in his craw, off to gloat the prize to his murder.

It’s warmer today. Temps have moderated into the thirties. I’m going to buy some traps and peppermint oil to dissuade Mr. Mouse and his family from trespassing. I’ll leave the trash out a bit later in the day so Mr. Crow won’t be tempted to an easy meal. I’ll try on my new warm coat, and see if it needs a layer under it for very cold days.

Elk’s season will begin 10th December. Word around The Hill is that we might be skiing even sooner; after all, for our intents and purposes Autumn is over.

The calendar says that Winter won’t arrive for another four weeks; Christmas in five. The folks on The Hill, the weather station and the critters concur: the cold has snapped – Winter is here.

November Dawn


Awakening before some nights retire, it is difficult to percieve the source of the brightness of the yard; could be snow, could be moonlight.

This morning, as dawn pronounced her conspicuity, the soft, dull, white glow of the yard revealed a coating of snow. The weather station reported a low temperature of just less than 15 degrees.

Winter scene; winter weather with still five full weeks of Autumn.

The light is the same now as it will be in late January, though a November dawn just doesn’t seem nearly as cold or dark as a mid-winter day.

Because the sun has been full and bright for so long and it’s strength has been diminishing gradually, or maybe as we still carry Summer’s warmth and light within us, confidence is our partner as we continue toward the darkest part of the year.

November steels us for the impending Winter.

Gratitude for our Veterans this week reminds us of how much our lives, our lifestyles, are possible only because of the effort and sacrifice of others.

Thanksgiving preparations emphasize just how appropriate, how important, expression of gratitude is. We’ve made it through Summer toil, another harvest; time to enjoy bounty, family and friends.

The more gratitude for our present circumstances is kept in our minds, our hearts, the greater our ability to navigate whatever conditions, whatever challenges lie before us.

Leaves and Trees


Leaves, sprouted from the smallest parts of branches,
give the wind something to blow against.

Given this purchase, it moves the leaf, the twig;
when gusty enough, the branch, the trunk,
yield, move, dance, respond to this force unseen.

Rain washes leaves;
when it’s intent partners with stout wind,
rips them from their home, Spring, Summer, Autumn.

Early snow or ice rests on, coats, and clings to leaves;
burdens twigs, branches, sometimes trunks.

Wind, rain, snow and ice: any of these, when ferocious,
rends leaves, snaps twigs, cracks branches, compromises roots.

It is, however, the leaves
that let the tree feel the breeze,
enjoy a sky-sent shower,
feed itself with the light of the sun.

Why do trees ritually doff these agents of nourishment, perception,
keeping themselves from feeding themselves,
dulling their ability to sense the world around them?

Standing for months, cold and unadorned, seemingly lifeless,
are they more able to feel their roots entwine their neighbor’s?

Can they better plan, when they awake,
to which limbs they’ll send the glow of sun,
which limbs they’ll neglect, let wither, die,
and shed for the sake of their growth?

Regardless of what they feel, or what they decide,
as they stand resting, deep in their own, while ignoring this world,
trees eventually will submit, awaken,
growing one ring stronger, for having done so.




A few years ago, a friend of mine, 44 years old at the time, told me that he had just returned from a meeting with a team of medical specialists in Philadelphia, where he had received definitive diagnosis of his health condition that had eluded the regional medical community for many months.

His diagnosis was not good. Left untreated, the tumor in his chest would exact a fairly swift, painful death. Treat the growth with radiation only, and expect to die within the next 21 months. Have the lung upon which the cancer was feeding removed, and maybe live up to 150 months.

“The worst news of my life.” he told me.

He had two young sons that he adored. In 2 years, they would be barely in their teens. In 12 years they would just be of the age to marry, and begin a family of their own.

He recounted sitting quietly alone in his SUV in the cold, echoey, parking garage of the doctor’s office, ruminating over the news he had just received.

It was contrary to his nature to avoid a challenge. Before leaving the meeting, he had already decided to undergo the surgery, and subsequent radiation treatments if necessary.

Collecting himself, he figured the next right thing to do is to get home, make some phone calls, and schedule appointments and housing in Philly for his prescribed surgery and extended battery of treatments.

The decision made, and now anxious to execute his plan, he turned the key in the ignition, and rushed the big SUV toward the exit, squealing tires echoing against the cold, gray, concrete walls of the garage.

Just as he reached the exit, a sun-glass clad fellow in a business suit, walking on the sunny sidewalk outside of the garage exit, stepped into the path of the SUV so quickly that my friend almost hit him – stopping so close that only the chest and shoulders of the pedestrian remained visible above the black hood of the vehicle.

The fellow in the suit continued his leisurely amble in front of the car, refusing to acknowledge the near collision, or make eye contact with my friend.

Never known for his patience, my friend lowered the passenger side window so he could directly vent some well deserved rage at this apparent idiot who walked in front of his car, almost got hit, nearly adding injuring or killing a person to the day upon which he received “The worst news of my life.”

As the window lowered to it’s fullest extent, my friend could hear a gentle “click, click, click” from the sidewalk. He then noticed that the sounds corresponded to a subtle movement of the man’s shoulder. An instant later, the white red-tipped cane became visible as the man progressed past the SUV. My friend remained silent as he pressed the button to raise the window.

As my friend watched the man continue on his way down the sidewalk,  he thought to himself “I’m not having such a bad day after all”.

Kevin shared these thoughts with me years ago, and said “There, there is your next Wanderlist story”.

Optimistic about his situation, I thought that we would share at least a few more years of friendship. I’d flesh out the notes I took, and finish the story “someday”.  As is human nature, I never really knew when “someday” would be; apparently, “today” is “someday”.

I believe that Kevin’s story is an example of compassion. Every day, we are all challenged or suffering in one way or another. Sometimes our afflictions are obvious to ourselves and others, sometimes not.

Being occupied with one’s own difficulties, real or imagined, can callous us to the suffering of others, thus worsening our collective situation.

On the day he received “The worst news of my life”,  it would have been understandable, though no less tragic, had Kevin been so distracted with his own difficulties that he pressed the brake an instant later,  injuring or killing someone else.

Strength of character, grace, and mindfulness allowed Kevin to rise above his understandably negative emotions,  be present in the moment, and bring to mind compassion for others, thus not making worse an already difficult day.

Thank you, Kevin for sharing about the day you received “The worst news of my life”. I hope my words reflect your thoughts.

Rest well. Peace be the journey, my friend.



Sleepy Susans


With Labor Day marking the unofficial end of summer, it is time to begin putting your garden to bed for the upcoming winter.

After a glorious summer display, the garden may now be looking a bit thin and worn. Late bloomers including shrub roses and the
black-eyed Susans will continue on for a while, but the end is in sight and it’s time to pull out the list.

The Garden To-Do List

– As vegetables and flowers fade, rake out beds and leaves; add to the compost pile.
– Purchase spring bulbs for October planting.
– Keep lawn mowed to two inches and water well.
– Start to divide and transplant perennials and shrubs.
– Discontinue fertilization of most flowering shrubs.
– Plant new trees and shrubs – though not too deep; water well and add mulch.
– Seriously hydrate your flowering shrubs and trees, preparing them for winter.
– Get outdoor houseplants ready for indoor life – make sure they are free of disease and insects by cleaning with a mild diluted soap
and water.

Labor Day

geeseIn one field, one can see hay bales, evidence of work completed, and geese resting en route to their winter homes; a scene of work in progress.

Geese, whose only work seems to be to fly north or south dependant on the season, often frequent this meadow throughout the summer,
though they generally take to the small pond across the road in small families. Early in the summer, goslings follow their parents around this small pond, eating, growing and strengthening, preparing for their first migration.

This time of year, however, the field hosts large gaggles, probably not locals; visitors on their way to their southern home.

This weekend, along with Memorial Day, are the holiday bookends of the Summer season. It will be hard to wander around The Hill for
the next few days without running into great food, music, and festivities.

And if you feel the need, enjoy the La Festa Italiana Scranton – more food, more music, and more festivities, before retiring to the
bucolic quiescence of The Hill.