It drags us out of the last crisp days of autumn and shoves us into the clutching grip of early winter. Though, aside from manhandling us into December’s bleakness, it does offer opportunities to experience nature in strikingly different weather conditions, often within days of each other.
I enjoy walking the gravelly footpath of Nyack Beach, along the shore of the Hudson River, under the imposing rock face of Hook Mountain. A rewarding activity any time of the year, it can be especially challenging during the unpredictable weather this month.
Monday, walking the path along the bank of the Hudson River, a perfectly clear November day, I slip unnoticed into a world so peaceful and uncluttered. Motionless ducks, gulls, driftwood and me. The river’s current moves slowly along, joining the calm by not adding any waves of its own. Turning to the mountain side of the path, shrubs and groundcovers exhibit the last of their fall color. Having been disguised by leaves all summer, Bittersweet vines are revealed sprawled over boulders and climbing in trees. The first sighting of their neon-bright yellow and orange fruit clusters always seems to catch me by surprise, as if I forget they exist—until they do. My pace is slow, not wanting to rush through what will certainly be one of the last great walking days of the year.
Later that week, I walk along the bank of the Hudson River on an overcast and drizzly day, with no visual distinction between water and sky. The sound of trains across the river echoes against the Hook’s rock face while waves slap against the boulders that retain the path above the water. Driftwood is in motion, bobbing slowly downstream. A fine mist coats me but doesn’t get me wet. I brace somewhat against the elements, though very much enjoying the mild temperature and desolation.
Toward the end of the month, walking along the bank of the Hudson River, I become part of the season’s first true wintry day. Wet snow sticks to my beard and begins to obscure the vines and weeds covering the edges of the path. Looking up the mountain at the gray silhouettes of leafless trees, my eyes are stung by fast-falling snowflakes taking aim at my face. The air temperature is below freezing but October’s lingering ground heat keeps the snow from completely covering the path or freezing its larger puddles. Feet cold, eyes tearing, my pace quickens on the path leading back to the parking lot.
Seasonal change is inevitable. Though November might be a little too abrupt for my sensibilities, it does give us time to store warm memories and take the surprise out of the coming chill.
Jon Feldman is the owner of G. biloba Garden Environments. Reach him at www.gbiloba.com or at 353-3448.