Something about the first geese flyover of the season puts a lump in the throat.
That lonesome high-up honking for me marks the true start of the colder months, the holidays, the feasts, the warmth of family and friends, the new year and new beginnings, of football and Netflix, of roaring fireplaces and raking leaves.
The first flock always seems to arrive just ahead of the season's first frost, and this was the case this past week.
This year's first flock flew over about 11 a.m. Saturday. An arctic blast followed three days later, sending temperatures into the 20s by mid-week.
I always hear the geese before I see them, and it took some searching in the gray sky Saturday to find the familiar V-shaped formation.
For me, that moment year after year has a wistful feel to it, like that feeling one gets when all alone at home but enjoying the quiet moment, a pleasurable loneliness that soon passes with the explosion of children's voices and rambunctiousness as they return from wherever.
Every year, I mark the first-flock moment, although I can't remember where I was last year or the year before that - or any year before that, for that matter – when I spotted the first flock.
During the years I hunted with my dad, the first flock often arrived while we were at the deer lease. In some years past, I spotted it while on a morning run. The combination of dawn, geese and fall chill makes for a special running experience.
What is it about that feeling, that pleasant longing, that need to hunker down?
Musicians have captured it in myriad songs.
In Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven," Robert Plant sings, "There's a feeling I get when I look to the west, and my spirit is crying for leaving."
Hank Williams Sr. sang about a "lonesome whistle," albeit in a sad song about breaking bad. His life was a world of lonesome whistles.
The Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas specials of Charlie Brown are chalk full of wistfulness.
Composer Vince Guaraldi's "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is one wistful collection of music. It is a quintessential soundtrack to the season.
As for the geese, I think about how far they've come and where they are going, that they've closed up shop in the north for the winter, much like trees closing up shop on their foliage.
I imagine many of the geese we see overhead here wind up around Interstate 10 between Beaumont and Houston. They can be seen by the thousands, perhaps by the millions, a quarter to a half mile from the highway, doing their geese thing in the fields. While driving the interstate, I used to look out and, in my boyish heart, imagine the noisy chaos that would erupt by running out there to scatter them.
As they settle in for the winter down there this time of year, so do we. Indoor season has begun, and with it a spirit of thankfulness, fellowship, giving and love.
And this time of year also brings welcome wistfulness, a soul-nurturing, lump-in-throat, positive brand of this feeling.
With the last gasp of summer beaten back with the arrival of that first arctic blast, and that first flock, the holiday season officially has begun.
The pool no longer tempts, because it is too cold to swim. The leaves are falling, and soon they will be burned in a backyard pile. The wind chimes clang with the arrival of a new cold front. Downed oak limbs will be chopped up for the fireplace.
The smell of apple-cinnamon and pumpkin-spice candles nurtures the ambience. Holiday lights are hung, and gifts are bought.
There'll be cuddling on the couch with my sweetie with the fireplace roaring. There'll be chunking the football around in the yard with the kids. There'll be doggie clawings at the door to get out from the cold. There'll be warming up the truck before taking the boys to school in the morning and scraping ice off the windshield with my Auto Zone card.
And let there be sweaters!
And it all seems to start with the geese.
Perhaps this will be the first year upon which I look back and remember the first flock. After all, I have this column to serve as a reminder.
Thanks for the moment and photo op, geese. Fly on, geese, fly on, to wherever you were going.
Brian Pearson is managing editor of the Tyler Morning Telegraph.