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  • Samhain is usually a busy day around here: the garlic harvest gets woven through wild grape vines wrapping the thick old posts in our house; brilliant bittersweet and chokecherries get threaded in to breathe color into this mid-point between equinox and solstice. We plant the next year's garlic and put up this winter's bird feeders. We make fires and welcome the cold winds. Settle in under wool and down.

    But it's November 3 and I have only attended to the garlic.

    I'm torn. I'm confused. I hesitate.

    The bluejays and chickadees, the juncoes and nuthatches, the cardinals and woodpeckers gather about the copse where the feeders should hang. They're ready. Waiting. Wondering?

    But I hesitate.
  • I eye the feeders, still scattered about the barn. A couple of them--the ones a bear pawed up last December--need replacing. I hesitate some more.

    I'm finding it hard to read the signs. Heck, I don't even know what the signs are anymore. Do I blindly follow the calendar, the movement of sun and moon? Last year I did just that, trusting, and the garlic sent shoots above ground in December. Bears, too warm to den up, streamed off the mountainside, looking for food. Birds straggled their way out of Canada. We had no snow.

    This year I'm trying to listen, to feel my way, to understand this new reality. Sandy has blown her hot winds north. A few days ago a single monarch butterfly did a slow solo just outside the window. Snow merely brushes the tops of the mountains. Vermont is not Vermont. And an election pushes us to the brink of no return.

    And almost no one is talking about it. The earth.

    But then I think: if I had set up Barbara's All-Winter Birdie Diner early, tempting migrating songbirds from the sky last week, some few would have been spared the tempest that awaited them further south. Perhaps they could overwinter here. Adapt. Survive this new wind.

    But that's unimaginable. I can't go there.

    And so I go out and talk to the birds. Apologize. For everything. Tell them about this one last chance to save it all.

    And they send me back in for the feeders.
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