The arrival of December means the definite end to autumn. Even the leaf-rustle of the November wind whisking October’s brilliance along the country road is muted as the leaves settle down. The early clamor of crows no longer starts the day, and the jays go about their business for the most part in blue silence. The chickadee is the most vocal bird in the dooryard, and his brief song is interrupted by the tap-tap-tap of his beak as he cracks a sunflower seed. In the country house, the fly-buzz and wasp-flutter in the attic have quieted down, the insects dead or dormant.
The barred owl hoots in the night, and from time to time the fine-spun yapping of a red fox is heard. But their voices only punctuate the silence, which lies deep in the rural valley where frogs, only a few weeks ago, thumped the darkness. Brooks are quiet, their shallow waters beginning to clog with ice. The woodchuck sleeps. Chipmunks drowse in their fluff-lined nests, and squirrels go chatterless in the treetops.
December comes, a time of earth sounds, the moan of the chilling wind, the swish of driven snow. Sometimes the countryman wakens in the night and thinks he hears the faint groan of rocks restless in their age-old beds, nudged by the slow expansion of silent frost. Sometimes he hears the slow crunch of ice on the pond. December comes, and winter.
Hal Borland, 1979
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
I came across this beautifully written passage while unpacking books over the weekend. The author, Hal Borland, wrote several books as well as the “outdoor editorials” for the New York Times from 1941 until just before his death in 1978. His works have been described as “always a breath of fresh country air.”