I realize it’s probably a problem entirely unique to me that nobody else has ever struggled with in the history of mankind, but I always have a hard time figuring out how to dress this time of year.
During the past couple of weeks, I have on multiple occasions put on clothing in the morning based on a weather forecast I read or heard. Silly me.
Because of my naïve acceptance of such prognostications, I ended up spending gray, gloomy day or two wishing I was wearing a long sleeve shirt and had brought a heavier coat, and some warm, sunny days wishing I was wearing a light, short-sleeved shirt and had brought a lighter jacket. If I were smart, I would simply bring clothing appropriate for either style of weather and changed if I needed to.
The key word there is “if.” The fact I go through this pretty much every fall speaks for itself.
I guess the good news is that now that November is about here, deciding what to wear is about to become much easier for several months in a row. Now, where did I put that knit cap and gloves?
•Last Saturday evening, I was outside enjoying the incredible “Indian summer” weather and I looked up and saw a huge flock of snow geese flying south for the winter, maybe headed from summer breeding grounds of Baffin Island or the Northwest Territories in Canada to wintering digs in southern Texas or Mexico. My daughter saw it, too, and she figured there had to be 200 or more birds in the amazingly symmetrical “v” formation.
It was a phenomenal sight to behold, and every year when I see a big group of snow geese (sometimes much larger than the one from last weekend) making their annual 3,000-mile or more trek to a place where winter temperatures stay goose-friendly, I marvel at the teamwork and precision they employ. I also can never help but wonder: Who decides who flies where in the formation?
I mean, there was no noticeable strife or discontent within this wedge-shaped throng of hundreds of big birds. With the exception of a little ebbing and flowing, members of the two lines combining to form the “v” maintained their positions without so much as losing or gaining eight inches in relation to their nearest neighbors.
All the while, there was one goose flying point, one at each outermost reach of the “v” and a whole bunch in between. How do they know what spot to take, and how do they know what to do once they’re there?
No radio communication, no instrument panel, no radar – no nothing (but a mysterious, wonderful “something”). It’s borderline inexplicable and no less than awesome.
•Last Sunday night, my wife Wendy and I and a couple of cool dogs we know went for a walk on the second of back-to-back warm nights caused by a short outbreak of Indian summer.
A breeze was blowing through the surrounding pastures and stands of trees, and the moon was in a classic crescent shape, not shedding much light in the area of our remote Texas County outpost. The conditions were perfect – ideal temperatures and no humidity – and we could see a zillion stars in the late October Ozarks sky.
The cloud-like ribbon of our Milky Way galaxy was even clearly visible, and Wendy said something like, “What makes it look like that?”
“Imagine a giant Frisbee,” I said. “The Milky Way is shaped similarly, but with curved arms that stretch our from the middle, like a pinwheel. We’re out toward the end of one of the arms, and when we see the Milky Way in the night sky, we’re basically looking from one side of the Frisbee toward the other.”
“That’s hard for me to grasp,” she said.
No doubt, especially when you consider that that Frisbee happens to be about 120,00 light years in diameter and harbors hundreds of millions of massive burning objects we call stars. Even traveling 100 times faster than the speed of light (186,282 miles per second – more than three-quarters of the distance from Earth to the moon), it would take 1,200 years to go from one side of the galaxy to the other.
And there are billions of galaxies, many that would dwarf ours. Wow, do we have an awesome God, or what?
Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.