Fall's first frosty morning

Autumn doesn't really arrive until Jack Frost pays a visit.

Like my first gray hair, the first frost of the season arrives without fanfare. On my morning walk with the dogs, I scrape the white edges of a wizened blackberry leaf to see if they're dew or ice. Touch them and they quickly melt, but they're definitely ice crystals – the first light frost.

It's time. The snow-coddled crocuses of early spring are only a memory. Nothing remains of the daffodils that always pop up a week or so too early to avoid the last frost. Stalks of joe-pye weed remain tall in the marshes, but their dusty rose flourishes have turned sepia. It's been a month since they've hosted a butterfly. Goldenrod gilds the meadows, punctuated by cyan asters and indigo ironweed.

Summer's red-winged blackbirds and purple martins have departed. Geese trekking south for the winter are swooshing in to take a break on our pond. Soon only cardinals and chickadees will remain to freeload from our feeder.

The rising sun caresses the hilltops where plants, unmindful of the impending winter, still reach for its first light. But in the quiet hollows, the wheel of life is turning. An argent mantle anoints the low flora whose work is now done. Saplings have sent their taproots deeper. They'll continue their journey next spring. Catkins are releasing next year's seeds to the morning breeze.

I'll hose off the tomato plants in our garden before the sun reaches them. They'll be fine for a while yet. Escarole mellows after the first frost. Once again, our beanstalks won't make it to the sky, but we've harvested a freezer full of beans. In a few weeks, I'll gather the seed for next year's crop.

There's a chill in the air as we walk this morning. My heavy sweat shirt feels cozy. Somehow the first frost feels cozy also. It's nature's way of tucking in the plants and saying, take a rest. Ahead is the stillness of winter's first snow – a time to snuggle and a time to dream of the crocuses of the coming spring.

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