I know it’s truly fall when an email pops up in my mailbox with the heading: “Lamb with a Plan.” It’s John O’Brien, the Tunbridge sheep farmer inquiring if we wish to buy lamb again this year. If so, we should meet him in Montpelier next week; he’s running for State Rep and doesn’t want to relinquish an entire day of campaigning to deliver lamb. A decade or so ago, John directed the hilarious and heart-warming movie A Man with a Plan about a Vermont farmer who runs for senator to obtain insurance that will pay his father’s medical bills. Hence, “Lamb with a Plan.” John signs his emails “Baa.”
I’d been thinking about John and his lamb, his email a delight for its predictability, a signal that a new season has begun, one in which the purchasing of lamb chops, legs and shanks arrives as we settle into the making of hearty soups, thick stews and roasts, our favorite foods as the days grow shorter and colder and we yearn for meals that warm and comfort us.
Soon it will snow and before that the days grow colder and grayer, but this afternoon is bright and breezy. The partially leafless birch trees and carnelian-coned sumac ripple in the wind, their shadows playing on the barn roof…a step left then swing back as the branches stretch out and upward with a growing gust. I watch them across the now green again lawn, mown last week for the last time this season. Beyond is the multi-hued hillside, the trees at peak, all shades of red, orange and a particularly intense gold, not yet beginning to brown. From my perch on the decaying red Adirondack chair atop my deck, I scan the lake, Long Point across the bay, Snake Mountain blue in the distance. For a moment I think, “I should be climbing that mountain, not sitting and admiring it,” but it is perfect right where I am.
Yesterday, my husband clambered up the extension ladder to remove the accumulating leaves from their pockets in the rain gutters in preparation for the window washing that will take place tomorrow, another fall ritual. I grip the ladder tightly to assure he doesn’t topple down along with the composting leaves. Energized, he removes all the window screens and pats himself on the back for completing the task rather than putting it on his long “to-do” list, regretting today that he’d been so prompt when we want the windows open to allow the last of the sun’s warmth to fill the house.
Our winter wood will arrive in the next few days, to be dumped unceremoniously in the driveway from whence my husband and son will stack it tightly against the weathered fence that divides our property from our neighbors’. Dying leaves dance wildly, rip from their branches and drift crazily downward, opening gaps in the foliage where our neighbors, who just a week ago were merely distant voices, emerge again in human form. We wave and call out, “What a glorious day!” We look out for each other, our neighbors and ourselves, on alert for a white panel van pulled up to one of our doors in our absence, a sign something’s amiss.
Other than the wind in the leaves, it’s quiet here in the late afternoon, a train whistle breaking the silence briefly, a motorcycle accelerating up the slight slope that separates our house from the marina, the distant hum of a motorboat returning to dock after what might be a last outing for the season. Or maybe not. It’s just possible we’ll be graced with another brilliant day before fall edges into winter.
I inhale deeply and let my breath out slowly, savoring the season, this day, this moment of peace. I am alone, though kitty eyes me from her haunt beneath the deck, a silent companion to my contemplation.