We seem to live in a little micro-climate here by the lake. When Jill and Emma and I went for a walk at Shelburne Farms last week, there was still autumn colour in the woods.
Soon the water system around Long Point will be emptied and closed off: because the pipes are above ground (on account of the houses being built on solid rock), there's a danger that they will burst when the deep ice comes. So the only people who can over winter here are those with wells. Houses that were full of life in the summer are now boarded up against the wild winter weather.
In the garden, this sense of preparation is even more intense.In the daytime, the chipmunks are now good-naturedly sharing the deck with grey and red squirrels (they do not, however, share with one another - and we are often entertained by three chipmunks chasing one another around the garden, while the cackling blue jays steal their food).
One day, I was cleaning out a feeder and accidentally spilled a handful of seed on the ground. That day, a small flock of a bird we'd never seen before spent most of the day on the lawn, to my delight. Since then, I've thrown out seed every day - and they fly down in the morning and are gone by lunchtime.
They're very hard to photograph - but they really are very cute, and fun to watch (for you kiwis out there, you have to realise these are very different to our possums, and are not the same danger to the environment). They're so tame now, they don't even mind if I sit on the deck in the shadows to watch them.
Recently, however, we've had a new visitor - a beautiful, furry skunk, with a splendidly flamboyant tail. But don't let looks deceive you: he's not a shy or friendly creature.
In the not so distant past, preparation could have meant the difference between those who survived the winter and those who didn't. As I watch the squirrels and chipmunks, I realise that, for the animals, that may still be the case (though I have to say the creatures in our garden are sitting pretty). But while human survival is no longer entirely dependent on the preparations made now, it feels as if there is some deep memory working in every creature, a memory that compels their actions and shapes their thinking: Winter is coming.