Twig season

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(HOST) Many of us have a favorite season in Vermont. Commentator Peter Gilbert’s favorite may surprise you.

(GILBERT) Vermont has been said to have not four seasons, but six – the additional two being mud season, of course, and what some call "stick season," that time between fall and winter when the leaves are off the trees, but the snow has not yet come to stay.

Well, the fall colors are long past now, but you might say that stick season is at its peak. And it, too, has its beauty. I like stick season for the subtly of the colors – the shades of brown and gray, like a delicate etching or pen and ink drawing. The bare trees let us see outcroppings of rock high on mountain sides and stone walls curving up forested hillsides where sheep grazed in the early 1800s.

Vermont seems to become itself again in stick season. It’s as if the party’s over, the guests – tree peepers, summer folk, and snow birds – have headed south, things have calmed down, we breath a sigh of relief, and we change, as it were, into our ordinary clothes. Its time to just be ourselves before new visitors come with the snow.

Robert Frost says as much at the beginning of one of his poems, set during the late fall. He writes, "The city had withdrawn into itself/And left at last the country to the country; "

In another poem, "My November Guest," Frost describes a walk with his wife. In an autumn mood of regret and sorrowful love, he refers to her as "My Sorrow." She praises the barren beauty of stick season’s drizzly, gray days, and asserts that he doesn’t appreciate them as she does. He, too, has long loved this time of year, but he doesn’t contradict her, and he enjoys hearing her praise the season.

Here’s Robert Frost’s twenty-line poem, "My November Guest":

My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
She’s glad her simple worsted gray
Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise.

We all might do well to look anew at the season we’re now in. We may find pleasure in a beauty we hadn’t appreciated before.

Peter Gilbert is executive director of the Vermont Humanities Council. "My November Guest" is quoted courtesy of Henry Holt and Company, Publishers.

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