Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Colder Still

 September's temperatures have been drifting ever lower and now we've had a second frost. It's unusual to have a frost in September at all, even less likely to have one while it's still summer (09/19). And now we've had a repeat performance (09/24).

 The lid of our metal burn barrel, a 55 gallon oil drum, serves me not only as a place to burn paper and yard debris, but as a place to easily examine the morning frost without so much as stooping. When I first walked outside to dump compost in the garden, the sun had just risen and bathed the edge of the lid in an orange glow. The frost stood in fuzzy crystals, lining the lip with ice. The air temperature was 34°.
 The yard wasn't covered with frost as I expected for so cold a night. I had mowed the grass just the day before and it should have provided a smooth, level surface to see the frost. But there was little there. Instead, again the garden, where I piled grass I had raked earlier, served as a better indicator.
 But the burn barrel is my best and most accessible "ground truth".

 The fill cap was also white with frost. It cannot hide from me with a large metal object serving as collector.
 My walk, too, was cold, though I wore no more than a light jacket. The risen sun seemed to promise heat even though the air was still frigid. When I walked back the lane and neared Sam's, I saw off to my right, a coyote walking gingerly toward me. He had his head turned, had spotted me before I saw him, and continued on his path, eying me with some suspicion but never altering his course.
 He had a long, shaggy gray coat and looked a bit disheveled. Stepping through the long, frosty grass beside the corn, he melted into the stalks as softly as a fog. In contrast, my own steps on the gravel drive were the only sounds to disturb the early morning air.
 I thought for a moment that he might see me as a sort of rump roast on hoof. But I also saw at the same time a wary fear in his eyes as he threaded his way beneath the corn. Thus we crossed paths merely, eyed one another with brief suspicion and then exited each other's world.
 I seldom see coyotes. Foxes are much more commonly viewed. And yet coyotes are heard many nights, howling by the creeks ... or so I am told. I count myself lucky when I have a close encounter with any of the local wildlife.

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