It may not yet be December 21, but my hillside is pretty much into its winter visage. A few sere brown leaves are still on the big leaf maple branches, but I can clearly see the half-dozen or so grey stalks that aspire eventually to be tree trunks with their finger-thick branches splayed out in all directions. The dark brown-gray stone of the hillside is visible again, beribboned with ferns. There are a lot more of them this year than last, which is great visually, though it makes me wonder whether the ferns have found more places where water is seeping through the rocks, which, in turn, makes me wonder whether I will awake some night to the roar of the hillside crumbling into the side of my building. Small rockfalls are restrained by long veils of fencing that the maples and ferns grow through, but if the whole shebang comes down, the fencing will come with it.
The only discordant note to the dour winter color scheme is a bright orange box that someone tossed over the side from the street above. It might have held Dunkin donuts or fried chicken or Reese's peanut butter cups if someone decided to eat 16 or 24 of them as he walked up the sidewalk. The orange is a color not found in nature except perhaps for a few days each year in satsuma groves. I think the box is waxed or otherwise rendered resistant to moisture because it is not fading. At all. The glue that held the box into its rectangular shape is rapidly giving up its hold, and the box itself is moving a bit down the hillside from day to day, but it's found a relatively stable place at the base of several maple trunk-lets, which puts it almost exactly where my eyes fall when I gaze out the window. It offends the Thoreau in me -- a sign of decadent civilization amid my big leaf maples and basalt hillside! -- but that's a bit silly, since my sense of being in touch with nature happens through double-glazed windowpanes from a heated room with my computer and Christmas chocolates easily within reach. So I guess I will just be glad there's only the one bit of trash to remind me of fallen human nature and go back to admiring the ferns.