Randi Kreiss

What to do before the winter snow flies


Winter is coming, meteorologically, astronomically, politically and “Game of Throne”-y. Let us embrace this brief, bridge season between fall and early winter, when the weather is transitioning and the clouds are gathering.
We could exhaust ourselves with political knife fights or try to figure out how our Great American Democracy came to hinge on the advice and consent of a fractious group of legislators, but we have all winter for that. We still have November and early December.
There is practical stuff to consider during these weeks. I don’t feel like watering my annuals anymore, being lazy and more inclined to let them wither and die, but I feel guilty. How many more days do they have to enjoy their favorite activity, photosynthesis? So although they are ragged and quite pathetic, I douse them once in a while as an end-of-life gesture.
It’s pretty much each living thing on its own. The trees and big bushes had better be hardy enough to withstand a tough winter, because we don’t believe in coddling the plant life with fertilizer or plastic protection from the elements. We do close the windows in our porch and throw covers over the outdoor grill and chairs, but that’s about it in the way of preparation.
Come the first cold snap, we’ll turn on the heat. For now, however, on good days the windows are open, and fresh air blows through the house.

I feel a certain urgency to get out and do some of the activities I put off because, after all, we had “all summer.” So, come along and cash in on these warm-enough days. Head for the boardwalk or the park for a brisk walk; before too long, we’ll be walking against the chilly winds of late November and December. Before too long, we’ll need hats and gloves to venture outside.
Get out of town. I like the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where I can walk around the area where my great-grandparents began their life in America. The city beckons, with its pedestrian-friendly districts and communities, and now is the time to go and walk, from the High Line to Battery Park. You can almost pretend that Covid doesn’t exist if you stay outside and dine at food stands. You can almost pretend that “surge” and “spike” and “antivax” aren’t part of the lexicon. In a few weeks, our city streets will become wind tunnels, inhospitable to the day-tripper.
Another perfect fall destination is the East End, to visit the vineyards and the corn mazes and experience the last perfect days on the beach. The crowds are gone and the restaurants are still open.
Or head north a bit and pick apples. When my kids were young, that was probably our favorite fall activity. Recently my husband and I went back to one of the orchards we knew, and it had become overcrowded and commercial. But there are still growers who allow picking, and it’s worth a ride to wander through an orchard, pick a bag or a bushel and head home to make applesauce or cakes and pies. This is the moment. Soon the apples will be done and it will be too cold to wander anywhere north of Westchester.
Back home again, it’s time to plant bulbs for next spring. This is much more than guaranteeing a bit of color next May and June. It feels like an investment in the future, a declaration that come what may in January and February, we know the seasons will turn again, the sun will drift further north and the tulips will bloom. I think of it as an act of faith.
In the same way, I spend some of these days preparing soup and packing it away in containers for the cold nights when I may not feel like cooking. Maybe that’s a little bit squirrely of me, storing food away for the hard times, but it feels good to do so.
Kids are in school, beach clubs are closed and the days are getting shorter. Still, we have this autumn interlude. With all the tumult in the world, these few days seem like a metaphor for grasping what is good in our lives when we can, because we can.
Something about knowing this time is finite propels me out the door and into the ebbing light.

Copyright 2021 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.