Saturday, December 19, 2009

Cold skies are clear, deer and meteors

I woke up earlier than usual and took Haggis the dog outside to piddle, but had to bring him back in right away to wait for the deer to clear out of the area. Whitetail deer have invaded our clearing lately to dig up apples from the snow below the apple trees. They generally only have the temerity to do this in the wee hours.

This happens every year, but this is the first I can remember that we have had so much snow before Christmas, although I'm probably wrong on that. One thing I do know is that the snow was so deep it changed the noise the deer make. Usually the noise you hear when you disturb the deer in the night is the typical "buck snort" that a whitetail makes when confronted. These deer just kept on digging snow; their exertions making so much noise they couldn't hear me or Haggis.

I don't want Haggis chasing these critters, not because he would take off -- he won't -- but because this time of year dear have to conserve energy to survive. I put Haggis right back in again and waited for them to clear the area calmly, which they did.

We have polite deer. And they're welcome to the apples. The sheep had every chance to eat them.

Then I happened to look up and saw the biggest shooting star I've ever seen, a big red one that seemed almost to reach the ground before it burned out. The weather has been cold and skies very clear lately, and I remember Charlie, our college chef and resident amateur astronomer, sending out a bulletin to expect shooting stars. This one was particularly spectacular.

Orion is now well to the west before it sets. The Pleiades are even further so.

Orion is our winter constellation, and I always notice it more than any other this time of year.

They'll all get further west before the weather gets warm again. It's been fairly bitter recently, with nights well below zero degrees Farenheit, 20 below Celsius. It will get colder than that before Orion leaves us and before the deer get to eat green grass.

Winter is hard in Maine, truly harsh and hard to take. But beautiful.

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