You know those pink plastic flamingos people stick on their lawns sometimes? I think of those each morning as I drive to work.

It’s a straight shot from town to school, and only about 8 miles in all. This time of year, I encounter not pink flamingos, but an entire multi-generational family of turkeys hanging out on the mowed grassy edges of the road. There are more than twenty birds. Some are fat females. Others are strutting toms with feathers fanned just like the images that invade advertising in the autumn. And a majority of them are teenagers. Teenage turkeys, I mean. A little scrawny. Almost adult-sized but not quite…. With an attitude that merges the awkwardness of adolescence with the confidence of adulthood, or at least of that adulthood that maintains a certain cockiness before the wisdom of reality invades. 
They sometimes straggle across the road, forcing me to brake and to check my rearview mirror to make sure the pickup truck on my tail is paying attention. I suspect they barely sense the presence of this speeding hunk of steel so capable of mass murder, or if they do, it doesn’t matter. Life can sometimes be as limited as seeds to eat along a recently mowed median strip. 

These mornings, the day is still dawning as I drive. The combines and grain-hauling equipment sit idle in the partly-harvested fields of corn and soy, awaiting laborers. The deer have already come down from the hills, although not in the numbers we will see in winter. They know a free meal when they see it. Periodically, my sojourn with two generations of slow-moving turkeys prevents my having to brake yet again for the deer that leap across the road. Inevitably, they are running- to or from? I never quite know.

A golden-red orb of sun has pierced the far horizon and glints from a lake… Big Stone Lake? Or maybe just Peever Slough. I never actually can tell. But it’s there, holding down the eastern sky as it shifts from greys to full-on technicolor. This morning there was even a little fog across the fields, softening edges and draping itself around the trees that follow the many creeks as they trickle their way along the uneven edges of farmland.

All winter long, I will be grateful for four wheel drive. This morning, I take the bumpy curve behind the school a bit faster than usual and the pits and gaps and potholes spit gravel and I’m grateful for it now. Back here, the trees are burnished gold, lit by the sun’s long morning touch. I crunch to a stop, parking tight beside the building, and douse now-superfluous headlights. It’s already cool enough in the morning to need a jacket. I’m not sure where the season between those first light-green buds and this fall of golden leaves has gone. 

It has departed.

But still, 
it is not winter yet.