The leaves are beginning to fall to the trees.  The wind and the colder weather of the last few days have really accelerated the process.  There is beginning to be more of a dampness in the air.  I can feel it in the mornings in my joints.  My knees and shoppers are sore when I first wake up.  It takes a few minutes for me to get going.  But after a cup of coffee to lubricate my joints, I am usually good to go.  I have been pleasantly surprised this fall.  There has been more color in the tree leaves.  The last few autumns they have simply fallen to the ground without ever really changing color.  It has been nice to see the bright yellows the vibrant reds.  Also nice has been the crunch of dry leaves under my feet as I walk through the yard.  It has also been very enjoyable to watch the birds rustle in the leaves as they look for seeds and insects.

I have begun to put out some seed for them.  I try to do that every year so that I can condition them to know where to come look for the food in the winter.  There is quite a collection of birds that arrive in the winter.  There are cardinals, blue jays, finches, a pair of mated doves and several chickadees.  It really is a joy to see the variety that arrives.  It is also nice to see when the deer come to the yard.  We leave several of the apples and pears on the ground to attract them.  It is rare that the rabbits will venture very far out of the brambles.  They seem to be rather secure in their personal kingdom.

It is nice to see all of the animals that is that the yard in the winter.  Winter is always thought of as a time of quietness.  We seem to think that everything has hunkered down and is hibernating throughout the winter.  I always think of winter is a wonderful time.  The trees are bare.  Sometimes there is a blanket of white on everything.  There is a calmness and peacefulness to everything. All the distractions of summer are removed. Gone are the flitting hummingbirds, buzzing bees and fluttering butterflies. The chaos of colors and falling leaves that is autumn are gone as is the rush of squirrels and bears to gather food and fatten up for the winter. Rushing waters are trickles of their former selves. Lakes and ponds freeze.

It is in this time of year that I find myself most comfortable. The world lays in darkness for several hours every day and the night air carries a crispness. The winter sky is alive: a brilliant collection of pinholes in a black velvet canvas. Sound carries in the stillness. The coyotes seem to be at your feet as their mournful calls float endlessly through the peace. Somewhere a dog is called backed to his primal roots and joins the cacophony.

 I feel sorry for those people that lock themselves in their homes and miss the glory of nature at this time of year. Frost on grass glistens in the low morning golden glow. The trees bare a starkness that showcases their strength and form. No rounded balls of leaves. Steam rises in wisps and hugs the surface of ditches, streams, creeks and rivers. Cold fog hugs lakes. A crane takes flight in the distance and then all returns to stillness. A V of geese cross the sky.

Yet it is all missed by so many. They are cocooned with the light of an electric fire, the sound of hissing heat from the registers and sounds of canned laughter from the television. At this time of year, our separation from natural world is at its most apparent. No working in the spring garden, mowing the summer yard or raking the fall leaves. Secure in our homes, we miss all that is winter.

In our lives, there are periods of quiet and stillness that overwhelm us. We seek to fill them with noise and light. We delight in the chaos that distracts us. Busyness calls us away from the solitude that would allow us to think and reflect. We cannot bear to sit still. The hustle and bustle which we always bemoan are really welcome. In the winter times of our lives are those places that we don’t want to go. Those places of life scare us. The structure of our lives are laid bare of leaves and our structure is exposed, the baying of the coyotes of doubt are seemingly everywhere around us and the foggy gloom hides the hopes and dreams taking flight. We long for the joyful rebirth of spring: a renewing of our spirit. We seek out the light of the energy of life around us that warms and brightens. We can even accept the beauty of slow decline. But there is something about the quietness that frightens us.

We fear a cold, slow death exposed to the elements. The pinpoints of light in that velvet blanket hold the prying eyes of friends, family and strangers. The rustling in the dry leaves are the whispers behind our backs. We fear. We dread. We hide. We fail to see the nourishment laid before us. We miss the opportunity to rest and reemerge refreshed and hungry to devour all that is set before us.

Embrace the cold and dark. Relax in it, hidden in the brambles. Secure from the predators. Fearless and content in your lair. Relax and breathe the refreshing crisp air. Let it fill your lungs expelling the staleness. Let your skin tingle afire with exposure. Sit deep in a cocoon of insulating ice.

Use these winter times to prepare to attack anew the world before you. Seek to cherish that which others see as depression. Do not be condemned by the thoughts of others that your lack of a smile and laughter is a illness. Take a few minutes to drink that cup of coffee and give the stiff joints a moment to limber up. Then begin the new day refreshed.