A North Country Almanac: October

The geese are travelling this month–more than last. So am I.

This evening, I’ll be boarding a train. The west-bound route starts here in the Northeast, and will work its way from Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo to Erie P.A., and on to Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Toledo of Ohio, through Indianapolis and South Bend, and–finally–to Chicago, that great windy city in the heart of the Midwest…and definitely not in the North Country.

Unlike the geese, I am not travelling in hopes of warmer weather. For the second October in a row, I’ll be riding the Chicago line in order to participate in a dear friend’s wedding. Last October, however, I started out in Chicago and headed back east; this time, the directions are the other way around…so, also unlike the geese, my migratory orientation is not quite consistent from year to year. But all that’s another story. This is the continued story of the geese, and, even more, of my little corner of the North Country of northern New York. Installment: October.

Like I said, the geese have been majorly on the move this month. One evening, my mom and I walked down the gravel lane across the road from our house to our neighbors, whose dog I was taking care of for the weekend. Mom, the dog, and I all walked (or trotted) down to the bank of the Beaver River, near one of its many bends. It was near dusk. We sat on some rocks to watch the show: the geese were landing on the water for the night in droves. As we watched the swiftly darkening skies, more and more geese kept sweeping in and landing with whirring wings and fantastic splashes on the river. They kept coming and coming; just as one small flock landed, another appeared on the horizon to join the noisy gathering. It seemed there was no end to their numbers; was all of Canada being depleted of its goose population and depositing them here, on our back doorstep, all at once? Some groups of geese would swoop low near our patch of river before flying a bit further upstream, seeming to disdain the crowded waters we were surveying. Some of these geese changed their mind and backtracked. We watched for nearly an hour. As tiny points of starlight began to prickle the sky above us, we left the river. The geese were conducting quite a symphony on the water behind us, and more musicians were still coming.

October has also brought the peak and the rapid waning of the fall colors in the North Country. The first two weeks or so were gorgeous. (This whole month’s weather, overall, has been gorgeous beyond belief.) But too soon, heavy winds and rainstorms swept many of the trees clean of their festive garments. Leaves now gave themselves to covering the ground rather than trees, leaving bare branches behind them, and turning from their bright hues to a duller, brownish tone to match the dirt they’re joining. In a matter of a few weeks, things are looking decidedly bleaker around here. Many trees still have some leaves–Elms and Oaks, especially–and an oddball Maple or two are just now beginning to change color at all, but many trees also look naked. It’s kind of sad. Autumn is definitely my favorite season, but I forget how quickly it turns into the starker, sadder days that presage winter. My sisters and I agree that we can almost hardly wait for snow now that most of the leaves have fallen, to make things prettier again and to provide the trees with some sort of decent garment, even if it be an austere, cold cloak of snow. The amount of light allotted to each day is rapidly diminishing, as well. This also makes me sad. Total darkness by seven o’clock is depressing.

On a happier note, I’ve seen a couple of Blue Jays around in the past few days. I read online that sometimes they migrate, and sometimes they stay put. Why some of them do migrate when they do is apparently still unknown. Anyhow, I hope these Jays stick around for the winter. I’m looking forward to possibly seeing some Red Cardinals, too. Together with the white snow, these birds will give Nature another banner of her own. I just hope she starts waving it soon: in the meantime, things still look drab around here! The skies were quite gray this morning, and the rain whipping down in a nasty fashion. Good thing I’m travelling…into the front that supposed to bring the North Country colder weather, and possibly even snow, at the end of this week. Oh well.

This sketch is part of a series inspired by (and partly in imitation of) Aldo Leopold’s magnificent and significant work, A Sand County Almanac. I salute Leopold’s work, skill, and knowledge as indisputably superior to my own, and so hope to grow in these areas as a result of writing this series.

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One Comment

  1. As I read this I felt like I was right back on the riverbend with you Bekah. I could hear the geese honking their melodies and see the stars “poking” through as well. Have a great trip!!

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