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CURWOOD: Many of us who live in a four-season climate are prone to mourn the end of summer. We miss the warmth. We dread the cold. We talk about what we'll do next spring. But, this year, Verlyn Klinkenborg says autumn feels different.
KLINKENBORG: This summer, I promised myself I ?d cut the thistles before they went to seed. But, thistle down is already in the air and lying in clumps at the base of the plants. And the bumblebees are working urgently on the few thistle heads that still remain purple.
I noticed that the light at night now, after the sun has fallen, reveals a blue that has almost nothing to do with summer. I ?ve been going outside at night just to admire how steep the temperature gradient has become--how the mercury seems to roll off the table once dark comes.
It seems almost shameful to admit it, a betrayal of youth perhaps, but for the first time I am ready for fall. Wheeler ?s hay is already stacked in the barn. There ?s nearly enough firewood under cover. The old roof, which used to shed shingles the way our dogs shed hair has been replaced. A brand new furnace glistens in the cellar, awaiting only an electronic twitch from the thermostat upstairs. The new chickens have a new house next to the old chickens in the old house. And they ?re all secured in a fenced-in chicken yard against foxes, skunks and weasels.
But, the readiness runs deeper than that. I ?ve been wondering where it comes from. Perhaps it ?s the suspicion, based on next to nothing, that this will be an early autumn. Perhaps it ?s that suddenly the thought of autumn, this autumn especially, contains the promise of renewal I usually associate with spring. I have the feeling that a time of year is coming when I ?ll again know just how to do what needs to be done.
The sight of a school bus on the road suggests as much. So do the hardware store signs advertising wood stove pellets for sale by the ton. The very briskness of the air seems to invite me outdoors and to work. Of course, the temperature could well reach the 90 ?s again, and summer could turn out to be deathless. The tomatoes may go on ripening for another month, or they could be bitten off in a hard frost tomorrow. There ?s no saying for sure. Only a lingering sense of expectation; a hope for what lies ahead.
For now, though, I walk past the pig house and look at the two young pigs nestled in the hay, and I find myself thinking not how hot they must be, but how comfortable they look, ear-deep imbedding. They peer out at me trying to judge whether I ?ve got the feed bucket in hand. It ?s a narrow calculation on their part. They could get up, run to the door, and meet me at the fence. But, if they stay where they are, piled next to each other, then nothing ?s lost if I just happen to be passing by.
[MUSIC: Spencer Lewis, "Bells of Waterville," IN THE BOSOM OF THE GREEN MOUNTAINS (Quartz Recordings, 1989)
CURWOOD: Verlyn Klinkenborg writes about the rural life for The New York Times.