Vibrant leaves group-danced to the ground; green fields gave way to earth tones; and shorter days rationed the sun. As nighttime temperatures flirted with freezing, those of us who live in Northwest Colorado awakened, pulled bedding around our shoulders, and wondered if we should turn on our furnaces.
Despite these early warnings, as September and October streamed by, we dared to dream that this year fall would achieve immortality. The autumn days continued to offer gold and dappled brown beneath polished skies and an undiminished sun that bathed us in midday warmth. Our footsteps crunched as we crossed still-green lawns, breathing air rich and earthy from decaying leaves, turned fields, and cattails in still water. The Yampa River, patterned with yellow aspen leaves and shadowed by migrating geese, wandered, slow and easy, at the edge of town. And on all sides, mountain peaks, barely misted by snow, kept watch as the burnished weeks drifted by.
Then it happened: winter descended with a swiftness that left us unprepared for the breathtaking transformation of the first heavy snowfall.
As I stepped outside into morning darkness to bask again in the essence of winter, flakes, heavy and dense, swirled around my head and fell, creating a muffling layer of snow that rendered my familiar world silent and unknown. Under the diminished streetlight, bathed by the floating fog and falling flakes of first light, seven deer — stilled and posed like snow-dusted statues — bent their heads, low and at length, to the ground: the only worshippers in a hushed cathedral built of blue spruce and white snow, they seemed to pray. Humbled, I watched.