Snow Birds


10.11.13  We had snow bird friends over for a farewell dinner a few days ago.  Off they go to Arizona, joining the caravan of motor coaches leaving our little village before the snow flies.  The neighbors on each side of us have had their chainsaws buzzing, burning slash piles of timber and branches.  I heard the aluminum rowboat at the Brown cabin being pulled up from the lakeshore when I was down by the water the other day.  Everybody is buttoning things up, closing down their homes, heading south.

At our farewell dinner, my friend, Carol, with her keen artist’s eye, could not believe the light coming into our dining room in the hour before sunset.  She grabbed her camera and clicked away as the light changed, second to second.  I told her that it is always like this in October in my house.  The sun, already so low in the southern sky, has dropped beneath the roof overhang on the porch and bounces off the lake through the glass doors, into our house.  There is a good hour or so right now when the light is exquisite.  I will stop everything I am doing to watch its progression across the room.  Before Carol’s exodus to Arizona, she had spent thirty years living in the Flathead Valley, and reminded me that this quality of light was splendid, “when there is any light.”  She is correct.  But, I told her that often at the end of a dreary day, there is light at sunset, when the setting sun’s rays sandwich under the big gray cloud and the top of the mountain to the west, for a brief few minutes.  It’s often all that I need.

So, no, I don’t envy her leaving for the sunshine and dry warmth of the desert.  Come January, I will definitely peruse air fares and see if I can find a bargain to go visit her and escape the cold, gray, dark and damp isolation of this place.  But not now.  Every day the leaves become more golden or crimson, and there is fog now in the mornings over the lake and rivers as the air temperature drops lower than the water’s.  On my run this morning, the Swan River was a deep blue-green color with undertones of teal blue, and yellow birch leaves floating in its current.  A soft, misty rain was falling with the scent of wood smoke in the air.  I wore my wellies and a wool plaid scarf when I went into town.  A perfect Fall day.

No, I don’t envy the snow birds fleeing south right now.  I envy them in the early Summer, when they arrive back here, drive down their gravel roads to the lake, open up the cabin,  get the water pump working again, set out the Adirondack chairs, and drag the canoe out of the boathouse.  I envy them when I hear their voices and laughter and busyness in the woods, setting up house for the summer.  And, I’ve been here all the time.  In my envy, I realize, as they say in yoga, “one must come to the mat every time with a beginner’s mind.” Their joy and anticipation in returning reminds me to have a beginner’s mind every time I come down the bumpy, twisty dirt road, to our home on the water.

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