It is the first hard frost of the season. The languid air of the night allowed the frost to creep in slowly as the mercury receded into the little nib at the bottom of the thermometer. Glistening ice crystals diffract the rising sun as first light tells the story of the season's first chill.
Clear skies, no wind, and cold temperatures brought the perfect formulae for this harbinger of winter besetting the waning fall. At least Mother Nature had the compassion to wait until the forth of November to bring us a reminder the season is nigh.
It is this time of the year your weekly columnist ventures to the timber to make his preparations for the coming winter. Twenty-one dead elm trees have been felled by my hand and lay waiting for the chainsaw and splitter. Using rope, chains, a winch and my Jeep, they have all been pulled from the timber and have come to rest in convenient position to be sawn into logs.
Much of the vegetation in the timber has lost its summer vitality. Colder weather has forced the plants, both wanted and not, to retreat to the winter mode, to loose their leaves and draw their lifeblood back into their roots. The deer have created new trails, and this is good.
Over the past several years, I have improved upon the trails here at Gilly Hollow. There has been a few miles of well maintained walking paths into and out of the very bowels of the timber. Most of those trails, as human walking trails, had their beginnings as deer runs. I merely improved upon and widened them for human use.
The demon winds during the derecho of seven eleven eleven wrought havoc to the trails and utter disarray to the timber. Close to a hundred majestic hardwoods fell that day. Unfortunately, many fell across the path of those well groomed trails. Walking those trails this summer was impossible. Even casual jaunts in the timber were made harder by the lack of trails and the proliferation of raspberry canes and multi-flora rose. Downed limbs and broken trees seemed to block every step.
There have been times when I counted in excess of thirty deer in the herd frequenting our timber. Deer at times need to travel swiftly to escape our dogs and other predators. I am sure that after storm, the deer too were distressed as the trail system lay in shambles.
But, the deer have this summer created new trails. In many places they transit portions of the old trails, but divert around the once stately fallen trees. It will be some work, but not as bad as I anticipated; to better those deer runs again into human passable paths. Come spring, the buzz of my weed whacker will resonate in the timber as those trails are improved. What was once a desperate gnawing that things would never be the same has been replaced by a sure knowledge the task will be completed.
I think this can be used as a valuable lesson for those times in life when things just seem hopeless, so overwhelmingly complex there is no hope. If one just stops for a bit and reflects on the problem at hand, it just might be easy to see a solution is possible. In fact, as is the case here, the solution will allow a different perspective on the timber, as new trails replace old, and a different view is offered; out with the old, in with the new.
Many of my friends have heard my admonishments when I hear them wish their life away. Many times it seems we humans fail to live in the present, and instead try to hurry time towards a future event.
One credo that I've always tried to live by, at least since I was old enough, and mature enough to understand what it meant, is: "Don't wish your life away. There will come a day when you'll wish back, all those days you've wished away. Live each day for what it has to offer." This is something every parent should tell their children whenever they hear the child say, I wish it was Friday, or I can't wait for Christmas.
In the same reflection, I think every parent should be required, weekly, to listen to the song "Cat's in the Cradle." You know the song: "The cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon, little boy blue and the man in the moon. When you comin' home dad? I don't know when. We'll get together soon, son, we'll get together soon." The essence of the song is that the father has no time for the son as he's growing up, and bemoans that fact when he grows old; the son has no time for him.
I sometimes hear people say they wish they go back to their youth. If I could go back, it certainly wouldn't be to my youth; I wouldn't live through it a second time! Maybe I'd go back to 25, if I could take all of my present knowledge with me. Wisdom tells me instead to appreciate where I'm at now, and build upon those experiences which are the foundation of my being, which is uniquely my life.
The sun is burning that frost off, but the temperature is not climbing very fast. I am hoping it will warm up just enough, but not so much it becomes uncomfortable for wood making, or perhaps even trail blazing. The day awaits; I am ready!
Until next time--
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In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2011 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at email@example.com via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.