April 22, 2018
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Thankful for ‘chain of silence’

By Kent Ward

High on any list of things for which to be thankful as the Thanksgiving holiday looms has to be the run of picture-perfect Indian summerlike weather we have enjoyed for the greater part of November.

These rare golden days of late autumn are truly something to be savored by a constituency mindful of the inevitable reality check the weather gods have in store for us as the hours of daylight steadily wane.

During a traditional Indian summer warming trend after the season’s initial killing frosts, “a soft veil dims the tender skies,” the poet Henry Van Dyke wrote. “A calmness broods upon the hills, and summer’s parting dream distills a chain of silence over all.” To gaze at the purple-clad hills in the distance during these days of exceptional atmospheric clarity here in the northland is to marvel at the genius of the master architect responsible for the lay of the land.

“Not yesterday I learned to know the love of bare November days, before the coming of the snow,” New England’s own late, great poet Robert Frost wrote in an ode to November titled “My November Guest.” The old boy knew whence he spoke, having experienced his fair share of late-November transitions to winter’s chilly onslaught.

I suspect that most Mainers appreciate, like Frost, these bare November days before the coming of the snow. For one thing, we know that the longer the days remain bare the shorter the run to mud season and the therapeutic promise of early spring, when optimism is the coin of the realm and all things seem possible. For another thing, the situation bodes well for the completion of fall’s requisite chores in relative comfort. Windows can be washed before cold winds turn the exercise into a made-for-television extreme sport; flower beds can be made ready for the spring before frozen turf thwarts the annual ritual.

On Thursday, when there beckoned a cloudless and typically blue-sky Aroostook County venue that may well have signaled the end of our November euphoria, it was impossible to stay indoors in a half-hearted attempt to crank out a column. All of the leading indicators — temperature in the mid-50s, sunshine in abundance, nary a breeze stirring, an open road leading from my doorstep to infinity, and such — strongly suggested that I should play hooky with the rest of The County and get outside to celebrate this perfection of nature.

I give up the writing gig as a bad job, don a light jacket and head out, shifting tenses in the process, as you can see. The routine 4-mile daily trek effortlessly morphs into 5-plus, so seductive is nature’s siren song.

Less than a mile out, I come upon a cow moose of my acquaintance that I have named “Mrs. White Stockings,” because her hind legs appear to be white, complementing the splotch of whiteness on her face. As I watch from a distance of perhaps 200 yards, she grazes calmly on a partially plowed-under broccoli crop, flapping her ample ears and occasionally staring at me as if to ask, “What’s the matter, Bozo? Haven’t you ever seen a moose wearing white stockings?”

A bit farther on, waves of raucous Canada geese descend upon Trafton Lake, their flaps down like military aircraft on final approach to the deck of a bobbing aircraft carrier. Reassembled on the water, the birds conduct a noisy town meeting in preparation for their imminent migration to the southland. Although not fluent in Canada goose-speak, I catch enough of it to sense that there may be differences of opinion amongst the gaggles as to the official departure date. It is clear, though, that one morning soon villagers will awaken to discover that the seasonal visitors have disappeared, leaving a void in the landscape, but no forwarding address.

To the northwest, in airspace over the former Loring Air Force Base, a prototype dirigible undergoing testing at what is now the Loring Commerce Center floats serenely, a stark white point of reference against an azure sky. Elsewhere in the heavens, aircraft arriving from overseas silently leave their trademark vapor trails thousands of feet above me. Get ready, Boston. Here we come, New York and Chicago.

I picture the passengers as being thankful for a safe flight across the pond as they proceed toward their Thanksgiving Day destinations. My thankfulness, though, has more to do with the fact that, unlike these pitiful prisoners stuck in their claustrophobic high-flying machines, I have both feet planted firmly on the ground, free to roam wherever I please on this spectacular day, in this spectacular place.

BDN columnist Kent Ward lives in Limestone. Readers may reach him by e-mail at olddawg@bangordailynews.net.

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