For several days prior to the end of Daylight Savings Time, I kept my eyes on the clocks around me, mentally subtracting the one hour I'd be losing that Saturday night. I'd look outside, evaluate the amount of sun I could see and the darkness that comes quickly in the late afternoon. I kept saying, "This time next week, it'll be ..." in order to wrap my mind around what was coming. I didn't want to be caught by surprise, so I played out the upcoming clock change by "dress rehearsal," and when finally Eastern Standard Time returned, I was ready.
I'd been noticing the weather changes in the week or two prior to the return to standard time. We'd had some lovely Indian summer-type days, mild and sunny, allowing for continued back porch sitting and flip-flop wearing. We'd also had our first major killing frost, our first real snow and a huge windstorm which knocked out power for about eight hours.
Losing and gaining light
Novembers are like that. Here in the Adirondacks we've been known to have mild and wild tossed together in a November weather salad. Either way, we are losing minutes of daylight every day and will continue to do so until winter solstice in late December.
A few trees have held on to their leaves until now. But once these cold temperatures come to stay, remaining leaves begin to tumble down, and daylight can once again reach the forest floor. At our house, the apple trees and tamaracks are the last to release their hold, making November a time of both losing and gaining light.
Slide toward winter
Right now as I write, the sun is rising, and our dusting of snow begins to melt. I watch a chipmunk struggle with a large peanut, a flock of wintering American goldfinches pecking at the seeds on the porch railing, chickadees and blue jays clinging to the feeders, and nuthatches hovering near the suet station. This is the mountains' slide toward winter, and the flora and fauna outside the window tell me their version of the story.
During the windstorm last week, while it was still light, I paid close attention to what was going on, both inside and outside. We'd gotten a wind advisory, so I'd definitely prepared to lose power. When it is crazy windy, we almost always lose electricity, all part of the deal we accepted to get to live here. We move fast when the wind picks up, or if there are blizzard conditions, or if the weatherman predicts power outages, and generally fill up several large pots with water, the tea kettle, and maybe a jug or two more of water on top of that.
Our biggest handicap without power is that we have no pump for our water supply. So as long as we have enough water on hand for a few meals and some hand-washing and tooth-brushing, we're fine. We still have our telephone (yes, we keep our land line for this reason), a gas cooking stove, a woodstove to keep the house warm, and plenty of flashlights, candles and lanterns to see once darkness rolls in. We manage; we huddle by our fires, staying warm.
Trees in the wind
But outside is where it is wild and unpredictable. I watched the trees sway and bounce as one gust after another blew through our world. At times the wind seemed to come from multiple directions, pushing treetops first one way, then another, allowing for the bounce-back, stretching the trees' elasticity with every blowing gust. These trees were literally dancing to the wind's music.
I tried to go for a walk, but the huge bowing birches twice indicated I'd be safer inside. I listened to trees crack, to errant branches crashing downward. I heard the rushing roar overhead as wind wrestled with uplifted branches and limbs, making them wave hugely, happy. It was electrifying to behold, nature's wild forces at play as one warm weather system was shoved away by the fast moving forces of cold.
After the storm, the crews and trucks from the power companies rolled out, and line by line they repaired what Mother Nature broke, and restored power to all of us who live in the outlying areas. They are the heroes who allow us our life so close to the wild and natural world. I salute them, especially after our big storms, the ones where we stay safely inside while they put on their gear and head out into the wild weather to do their job.
Novembers bring change. From wild windstorms, to standard time, to birds establishing their winter homes, the 11th month rarely looks the same at its end as it does at its beginning. It's amazing and fun to watch for these changes, so make a note, keep your eyes on the world outside our windows, and see what you can discover on your own.
Randy Lewis lives in Paul Smiths, and is the author of "Actively Adirondack: Reflections of Mountain Life in the 21st Century," Adirondack Center for Writing's People's Choice Award for Best Book 2007.