My friend and neighbor, Mike, once asked me a question. He said, "If you had the choice between being inside at night during a blizzard or being out in the blizzard, which would you choose?" The question was accompanied by a wry smile and story about his former girlfriend, of whom he'd asked the same question.
"She looked at me like I was crazy and told me 'inside, of course," Mike said, "I guess that's why we're not together."
I like to think that I am cut from some of the same cloth as Mike, maybe not so rugged, but I too would prefer to be out in the storm, experiencing our world in it's intensities. Then again, a hot bath is nice.
I bring all this up because the seasons are changing again. The wind now whistles amongst the bare branches of the maple and walnut in our yard, thumping the side of the house with cold weather's youthful glee. I hear it and think about the storms to come, driving sleet and scudding snow. Silent snowfalls and weird foggy frozen mornings, frosty rime glazing the world.
That stuff is the fun part, the cold mud and tractors that won't start are the other end of the spectrum. Cattle without feed and frozen waterers, blast chilled fingers and fencing buried in snow and ice. These things give me pause.
And yet it is still just November. Mild, peaceful, sleepy November. It is a month of preparing, of bracing oneself, of becoming just a little tougher.
Sharpen the chainsaw, stack the hay bales, change the oil and put away the summer equipment. Make sure the animals are healthy and fit, ready for the cold. Find the scoop shovel, test the antifreeze, pull out the heavy clothes, the long johns and the insulated coveralls.
And while you are doing that, don't forget to watch the geese flying far, far overhead, more heard than seen. Notice the cattle's new curly coats and chickadees gathering closer to the house. The sun goes watery and long in its slope slanted shafts of light. Gather in with your eyes the last greens of the year with the late season grasses - fescue, the king of winter grazing, and orchard grass in tussocks everywhere.
Make note of your store of firewood and enjoy a few of those summer tomatoes you canned.
Be alert for the moving deer, the rabbits hot footing about, the coyotes calling in the cold night. All of these things are new again to us for a short while, before we become inured to their beauty by time and repetition.
And when the blizzard does finally come, when it does, join Mike and me out in it, out in the dark and the cold and the snow. Let it thrill you a little, scare you a little. And then come in. A hot bath is waiting.