Home for the Holiday

For some reason, all the bills came due this week. There were the usual end-of-the-month debts. Then there was the cost of the new heater, which is supposed to save money and give us a smaller carbon footprint in the long run, but has to be paid for up front. A day later, six month’s worth of car insurance came due. After that, a full year’s worth of homeowner’s insurance. Does this happen every year and I manage to block it all out? This year, I’m writing it down. Maybe someday I’ll go back and read it.

But this is Thanksgiving and I’m grateful – yes, grateful – I have bills to pay and better, the means to pay them. Grateful to have a house and car to insure and heat.

Out in the yard, I see beneath a cloudy sky that I have not completed my autumn yard chores. There seems to be no hurry this year, as if I’ll still have several weeks to put everything in order before the snow comes. That should not be the case. White Thanksgivings are common in Vermont and weather lore holds that “snow on the mountain means snow in the valley six weeks later.” I saw snow on the mountains eight weeks ago and still none in the valley. I’m not even sure it’s on the mountain anymore. The newspaper says the skis areas will be closed on Thanksgiving, usually the first big day of the season. The days drowse along in the 40s and 50s, as if autumn has become static, rather than a dynamic season.

If the sun shines, the bees come out of the hive and float around, stretching their wings and voiding their bowels and bladders. (Bee excreta are, as you might guess, yellow – the color of spicy mustard. If you’re going have an animal shit on you, make it a bee. They eat nectar, pollen and honey; this time of year, pollen and honey. How bad can it be?) Passing the hive last weekend, I thought they had all clustered inside against the cool of the afternoon, but I sat still and watched for a few minutes and one bee after another flew in from somewhere and lighted on the landing pad, like guilty teenagers creeping into the house after curfew. No pollen’s flowing in this season, but they might have been fetching water from the bucket that still sits beneath the drained spigot.

Around the front of the hive lie the bodies of the drones who were kicked out when the days grew short. Drones – males – do no work. They gather no pollen, ripen no honey, build no comb, so when winter approaches, out they go. The queen will lay new drones in the spring. The last new bees of the year hatched out a week or so ago. They’ll see the queen through the dark months until she starts laying eggs again in late February.

There’s firewood in the driveway –sugar maple and cherry – but we have neither fireplace nor wood stove. (We’ve never had a cherry tree either, the logs are imported from a neighbor.) I’ve had several people (OK, guys) express interest in taking the wood off my hands, but Adrienne points out that it’s been in the driveway for months and now it’s seasoned enough to burn. I’ll try to get it out of there before the snow settles, but failing that, at least it will be covered until spring – or until one of the would-be claimants runs short of fuel.

Around the corner, contractors have been banging and sawing, adding a dormer to a house. A dry November following a wet October is a boon for the building trades, perfect weather to work indoors and out.

A postman in shirtsleeves worked the other side of my street yesterday, dropping bundles of holiday catalogs at each house. Although the neighborhood was quiet, Adrienne reported that the downtown co-op was packed, as shoppers laid in the last supplies for the holiday meal. The colleges have dispersed for the long weekend and for a few days parking spots will be more plentiful than usual.

It is good to give thanks for simple things. Earlier this week, the news reported that Vermont is the sixth hungriest state in America, with 12 percent of our households having trouble putting food on the table. The state’s food banks distributed 7.5 million pounds of food in 2008, up over a million pounds from 2007 and expect to give away more than eight million pounds in 2009.

No one wants to spend Thanksgiving alone, or hungry. Today is our semi-secular holiday of community and sharing. We only truly keep the things we give away. Happy Thanksgiving.

© Mark Floegel, 2009

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