Lights on the farm house porch

Here on the prairie
we are constantly aware of
the weather.
Because we are exposed
and there’s not much around us
to obstruct,
we feel it.
Weather is central
to our lives.
We consider it
as we make plans for the day,
and change our plans
as the weather changes.

We had a hard freeze
early this year—
the first week of October—
but since then
it’s been unseasonably warm.
The leaves on the Hackberry
and Chinaberry are golden
but there’s a disconnect
with the temperature.
Instead of crisp autumn days,
it’s been hot.
Mornings are balmy,
warm and humid,
like spring.
Then the winds kick up,
like spring.
We’ve had a week
of windy days
and it doesn’t settle much
at night.

I notice on my city visits
that the weather
is not at the center
of awareness.
While I’m looking
above streets and buildings,
to the sky,
and noticing shifts
in air and light,
or catch sight of a bird in flight,
when I casually share my observations
with city friends
my comments seem to jolt.
It’s then I realize
how much the weather
is central to my life.
No wonder,
then,
that the effects of climate change
seem so real,
so telling,
so pressing.

In the last two weeks,
predators have killed all the chickens
at the barn,
and three guinea fowl.
These massacres happen from time to time,
but with continued exceptional drought conditions—
we have received 10.28 inches of rain
in the first 9 months of this year;
our 30-year-normal is 36 inches;
last year, we received 19.61;
average temperatures are 10-12 degrees above normal—
we see changes in behavior
in the natural world.
For instance,
at the pond house this week,
two chickens have been missing
when it’s time for them
to come into the hen house.
Two days ago,
at 5 in the evening,
a good hour and a half before the sun disappears,
Ann found a coyote
at the steps to her patio.
It was headed to the chicken house.
Alarmed,
and alerted,
Ann investigated further
and discovered a trail and a pile
of the chicken feathers
from coyote suppers
the two previous nights.
The coyotes
are evidently hungry
and willing to change their habits,
coming much closer to human habitat,
to get a meal.

We’re leaving porch lights on
these nights.
Those porch lights
are a signal in the dark
for the coyotes to stay away;
they also beckon us
to change our behaviors.
Living on the prairie,
it’s easy to see the connect
between fossil fuel use
and coyotes at the hen house door.