I’m a little impatient about waiting for the cold weather to arrive. Below freezing temperatures appear to be stalking the rain that follows this cool dry and sunny patch. I’ll be thankful for just seeing another day dawn but ask me to choose and I’d say that nothing beats being out for a little exploration on a chill autumn day. The cooler and crisper the better.
Rather than wait for the cool to arrive, I go to it: up to the mountains, where the adiabatic rate guarantees lower temperatures. Indeed, when the sun shines through the bare alder onto the spring-fed Tyee, you may almost be fooled into believing you can unzip your coat. But, just a few feet from the bank, the marshy ground is frozen. Rime heaves out of the boggy soil as if in a spasms. Frost gilds the leaves of the few perennials still holding onto their greenery as if hoping for a halt to winter. Fallen maple leaves are plastered to the trail, parchment thin and waiting to scribe the tales of the passing elk. By spring they’ll be invisible, their script known only by the detrivores that finish them off.
The elk browse here but today only their icy foot prints and scat lay witness to their preference for this place. My footprints mix with theirs in the one or two thawed pockets of loamy soil. I worry not about soaking my feet, as I would have last summer. Instead, there are no worries, just the rustle of leaves and ice underfoot and the whistling of the wind in the bare branches above. This is the feel and sound of gratitude. As I bushwhack back to the car my earlobes are icicles, but my heart and soul have been warmed by the woods in its readiness for winter. For me, this is Thanksgiving.