Letter from Aroostook: Coming into fall

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On the way home from town this morning, at least a hundred Canada geese were settled into one of the newly harvested fields of oats along the two-lane strip of pavement that is our connection to town.

Eleven miles one way, bordered by fields, pastures, small homes and larger farms, is the path to groceries and doctors and other necessities of life. Friends who visit from away often exclaim, “I couldn’t be so cut off!” But it is the distance and the pleasures it brings that brought us to The County 13 years ago.

Portland Phoenix/Rebecca Reinhart

For a moment I slowed, but sentinel geese at the four corners of the gathering raised their heads, ready to sound a clarion warning. I abandoned any thought of capturing a photo of the flock gleaning oats spilled among the gold stubble.  Likely they were part of the flock that settled in at dawn on the white cedar bog, a short walk from the end of the dirt road where we live.

Nothing marks the end of summer more than the first high clarion calls of the flocks that fly over the house, echoing in the stillness of October morns and evenings.  Often, we run outside and stand, our faces tilted skyward to watch the chevrons of birds, sometimes several hundred, that see our neck of the woods as a perfect stopping off place on their twice-a-year migration, north to south, south to north. Mornings like this, with a high blue sky, a tang in the chill air, and the trees donning their fall garb is much of what drew us to Aroostook.

The coming of fall brings us full circle in the year.  While spring brings the promise of crops to be planted, repairs to be done, fish to be caught, and lazy days by a lake, it is in the fall, full of its warnings of the winter to come, that County folks take measure of the year’s efforts.  Once golden fields of oats bristle with the stubble of harvest. Stacks of firewood grow by the back doors and potato harvesters clatter late into the night harvesting the spuds for which The County is famous. Garden produce must be harvested or purchased at the farmers’ market, processed and put away for the winter, when often even the 11-mile drive to the grocery is impossible to make. And then there is hunting season, with game to be harvested for the freezer..

While winter comes hard and fierce, and rarely with little warning, we all welcome the break. Oh, we groan when the first flakes fall, and groan even more when snow piles to 14 or 15 feet around the house, but there are things to do.  There is time to take stock of our efforts, and time to have dinner with friends. There is joy in waking to a rosy dawn with new snow, pristine and glittering in the early slant of light.

With the pace of life slowing, a benefit of winter in The County, we stack the woodpile a bit higher, clean out the last of the garden before the next freeze, and stand outside watching the geese as they rise and swirl above the bog, straining our ears until the last of their cries fade into the wind.