The Calm of Autumn Geese
The first week of October is a gateway here on the Currant Farm. Summer has definitely packed her bags and left town for the next 9 months. The night air now sifts down from the north, cool and wonderfully clear and the early mornings, still dark at 5:00, welcome the old wool cardigan with leather elbows that’s been sleeping in cedar since last winter.
The goldenrod and autumn asters proffer the last pollen and nectar to the bees which innately know to stuff every available cell in their hives for the long winter months ahead and the complexion of the hardwood trees at the top of the honey bee wildflower field becomes more vivid each day. The last few spent currant leaves, now crumpled and brown, hopelessly cling to the stems adorned with the new buds of next year’s flora.
The sounds of the farm have also changed. Last night as I was sitting out on the porch after dark appreciating the warmth of a cup of after dinner tea, I was aware that the summer night music had all but been silenced. The songs of the katydids, crickets and tree frogs were no more and the farm pond that reverberated with the grindings and raspings of bullfrogs and leopard frogs all summer was now hushed as their metabolisms lowered in concert with the autumn temperatures. I heard a single bark of a Black crowned night heron cursing the absence of his evening frog supper. I imagined him deciding it’s finally time to head south. The haunting “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all” of the barred owl echoed from the woods beyond the eastern fields. At least she will keep me company through the winter.
And then, I heard the one sound that evokes autumn more than any other for me. Beyond my sight, 5,000 feet above in the obscure darkness, a choir of Canada Geese mournfully lamented the departure from their Arctic home just days ago.
There are 11 subspecies of Canada Geese and some overwinter here in New York and as far north as open water remains on the rivers but the geese we see and hear flying south this time of year in the classic V pattern, thousands of feet up, are the original species that predate many of the subspecies which have evolved with changes in climate. The familiar V formation helps the birds to conserve energy since each goose behind the one in front has less air resistance to compete with and they all take turns at the helm. The maximum height of a flock of these chin-strapped voyagers is unknown but pilots have reported them at 29,000 feet where there is 70% less oxygen available to them.
“It seems here on the farm, there are still many things that are just as they should be.”
As I finish my tea, the plaintive honking softens into whispered vespers beyond and the farm is once again swathed in the hush of an autumn night. A sense of deep calm enfolds me brought on by the predictability of this autumnal migration. The world seems to be on the precipice of calamity most days and the environment struggles to hold on to some semblance of balance but I find great heartsease in the honest surety of this simple event every October. It seems here on the farm, there are still many things that are just as they should be.