The mist clings with lonely fingers to the pines and granite protrusions of autumn peaks. Maples peer through the pale curtains in shades of yellow and gold, red and orange, standing out starkly amidst the shifting mysteries and gloom.
An observant walker of the wood will notice how the wind has shifted to blow from the north, tugging at shirts sleeves and coat tails like a precocious child demanding attention. ‘Winter is coming, winter is coming.’ It says into your chilly ear. The forest that softly whispered of summertime breezes is rustling and shifting about in the fitful winds, like someone preparing to sit for the long wait through seasonal freezes.
High above where eagles soared the warm updrafts a few weeks ago, an advancing line of white soldiers come slowly down to the valley floor. Reaching stealthily into the shadows beneath evergreen boughs, subtly seeping into the river where the geese had floated their young. Holding the current loosely in a cold fist of ice on the embankment that will slowly contract as the temperature drops, until even the watery whispers are muffled in the snows of winter.
Puddles are no longer grinning nymphs calling for bare toes and dancing. They are silent brooding lurkers in unassuming driveways, that seep into boots and nip at your feet. Smirking as they wet your socks and chill your bones, making you stomp, shiver and carry extra layers in your car.
People tend to bounce in place when they are not walking, like the little birds that bob on the riverbed. up down, up down, one hand shoved into a warm pocket, the other wrapped lovingly around a hot coffee. Collars up around their ears, breath fogging before them and mixing in with the steam from their styrofoam cups as they linger at the general store in the early hours of morning. They talk of sandbags, snow shovels, four wheel drive, stocked woodsheds, full cupboards and whether or not the road will still be there in the spring.
This is the autumn shuffle, the chilly tango, the slow waltz of a mountain courting winter.