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Come January



We're a few frosts into winter now, still hard to embrace the familiar fall transitions. From beach reads and late-night ice cream runs to college apps and swim team practices, from flip-flops and T-shirts to long sleeves and layers and dinner in darkness.

On the last full moon, ominous Death Eater dark clouds raced, west to east, signaling torrents of nature in the forecast. Oak and tulip poplar leaves are in motion 24 hours a day. Nothing but change. The sweet smell of a wood fire drifts from the neighbor's house. It's easy and comforting to think of them nestling in their living room, too, sewing, reading, always something baking.

The corners of every room pile up with sweatshirts, boots, hoodies and hats. All of a sudden I've become a woodpile status monitor. I preferred the watering, mulching, harvesting routine. I'm realizing we'll never find the lost mitten matches. The garden hoses, not too long ago the most valuable tools of the infrastructure, now lie random and discarded. Someone needs to put those in the shed, I tell the dog.

Crimson clover rolls over the garden's abandoned mounds. Lone sprigs of parsley loom as lighthouses for sharp-eyed deer. Along the roadside, silhouettes of once-vibrant stalks of corn now resemble the Emperor's skinny army, waving in formation as we drive to town.

Never the wallflowers, rustling red-leafed, rabbit-eye blueberry bushes dominate a clearing in the forest. Spectacular oranges and yellows, jitterbugging 30 feet in the air at sunrise, provide a fitting finale to the last season's fireworks. Come January, when the landscape is muted grays and browns, we are all going to be so excited with anticipation.

For a while the bird feeders are silent, though not for long. There is just so much to talk about, savor and look forward to. Contented hot chocolate nights and oatmeal mornings and bundled up walks to get the paper.

Imagine an early snowfall dusting the neighborhoods. We peer through the windows at sunrise, with hope in our hearts, and all those colorful and homemade Obama/ Biden yard signs are still proudly poking out along the horizon, blue and red. It's real, it's going to happen. Come January.

What's ahead is anything but a hibernation inauguration. In the season's crisp coolness, plans are hatching, dreams are being scripted. Somewhere in Chicago, David Plouffe is composing a symphony of e-mails. I'm wondering what kind of dog the Obamas will get.

I haven't found my window scraper. A rickety pile of hickory fell over in a gust. A dead pine tree hangs over the driveway and the leaf rake is missing in action. Hunters with high-tech flashlights are cruising the right-of-way and our old dog howls at shadows. The chickens' watering can is rusting and the gutters are always clogged. No one in my family likes riding in my truck.


Winter will be a piece of cake, no matter what: Spring blooms two months early in 2009.

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