There are still green leaves on the trees in Burlington, Vermont at the time of year when the leaves are typically on the ground becoming fertilizer in the cycle of life. Perhaps this late transition of foliage is evidence of climate change. Next week it is predicted to be in the high sixties at a time when snow could be blanketing the ground.
There are always extremes of weather and now we pay closer attention to the vicissitudes of nature. It snowed in New York City before it snowed in Burlington this fall. The heavy, wet snow clung to the leaves still on the trees creating an unbearable weight. A thousand trees went down in Central Park; people have been without power for a week.
Whether these are just random weather events or signs of climate change, they are vivid reminders of impermanence. The world is uncertain and when it seems not to be, we are not really paying attention.
I drove from Burlington to Middlebury today. On much of this drive are view of the Adirondack Mountains to the west and the Green Mountains to the East. I’ve lived here for seventeen years and I never fail to undersestimate the profound beauty of this landscape. In my mind, the gentle, aged majesty of these mountains shrinks to quaintness. Brilliant sunshine and visibility shatters that quaintness, expanding the mountains to their full grandeur.
How fortunate to be alive on this and every other day; to have this opportunity to see these hills across the shining lake. Indeed, climate change or no, the peak of Camel’s Hump was sporting snow. This himal, a harbinger of things to come. Despite global warming’s best efforts, the winter will still be brutally frigid. Cold Buddha will shiver soon enough.
So, I will enjoy the mild sunshine while it lasts and I will embrace the cold soon enough. Landscapes such as these invite us to be mindful — providing a ready bridge to walk across to find ourselves in the moment. It’s easy to go to sleep in a flat, unchanging landscape. But no landscape is truly flat when we pay exquisite attention.