North Country


It’s only November! In my mind, the weather should still be balmy and warm. But this morning, as I took Mr Izz to school (story of my life these days…), it was cloudy, cold, and it was precipitating a mixed bag of goodies…first some rain, then some sleet, then some snow. SIGH! I really was hoping to get through at least until January 😛 . Yesterday, as I cooked the rice outside on the camp stove we have (don’t ask….really…you don’t want to know…), Victoria came out and asked if it was going to snow soon. I told her more than likely, but hopefully it will wait for another month or two…or three…. All of this despite the smell of snow on the chilly wind that was coming in from the north. Yes, snow really does have a smell. And it looks like I pegged it, as I always do (patting myself on the back, thank you very much). I’m just not ready. I know, I never will be, but my lack of readiness and general avarice to such things as snow and cold really ought to be taken into consideration before they are inflicted upon us all.

The other thing that’s annoying me today is the whole “holiday season” thing. Why on earth do we start with this madness so early? Do I really need to be thinking about Thanksgiving, let alone Christmas, before Halloween? I don’t think so. And yet, as I watch my telly or listen to my radio, I am bombarded with commercials laden with the sounds of sleigh bells and random “ho ho ho”‘s. I swear it gets earlier every year.

I think that if we banish snow and cold until around…hmmm, let’s see….the middle of December perhaps, then maybe we’ll be able to circumvent the whole “holiday season” garbage. It won’t be cold enough for sleighs, therefore no sleigh bells, and there won’t be snow, so no one will want to think about ho ho ho’ing. And I’ll get a bit of peace and quiet on the holiday front, along with good weather for longer. Sounds good, don’t you think? Unfortunately, given the fact that I live in the frozen tundra which is the North Country, neither of these things is going to happen any time soon. Which only means I’m going to have to find my boots, which are still packed away…somewhere in some box in some void which no one in their right mind would ever enter. Except me, of course. But only because I hate cold feet.

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While I am looking forward to Autumn in a way, hearing the geese for the first time is somewhat depressing. It seems to be coming fast this year, that’s for sure. I think we all should be ready for a long, cold winter (especially here in the North Country) because the animals seem to be preparing already. And then there was that nip in the air as I hung out the laundry. SIGH! I’m really not ready. But then, even if it came later, would I be then? Probably not.

The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry’s cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I’ll put a trinket on.

~Emily Dickinson

This is kind of an odd time of year for me. We’re quite rapidly approaching the end of Summer, much to my dismay, for that only means that it will soon be Winter and 20˚ below zero yet again. But before we get to the sub-arctic temperatures of Winter, we must first pass through Autumn which is known for it’s warmer days and chilly nights; it’s dazzling leaves and the smell of wood burning in the fireplace. The geese are on the wing, desiring to get to warmer climates before the snow begins to fly, making quite a racket as they honk their way through the skies in that characteristic “V” shape. And while it’s not freezing cold, it’s cool enough that most days I can finally wear my cool red hat again. That in of itself is cause for celebration. Next to Spring, Autumn is my most favourite season. I know…seems odd, doesn’t it? The woman who whines and complains about the cold until the Summer sun finally sends forth it’s warmth and light, is actually joyfully anticipating Autumn. Maybe the planets are out of alignment or maybe I ate something weird and it’s done something to my head. Or maybe, just maybe, I don’t really hate the cold as much as I seem to go on and on about…..nah, that can’t be it. Must be something I ate. But I do, although it does seem odd in so many ways. Afterall, Autumn does seem to be the direct antithesis of Spring. How can I find joy in something that is seemingly so contradictory to other things I find joy in?

Spring is the season of new life. As the warm breezes finally make their way up to the frozen tundra of the North Country, they awaken those things that have long been dormant during the cold and snow. The trees yawningly stretch their long limbs up toward the sun as their green tresses begin to reemerge. The flowers lazily poke their colourful heads out of the earth, making sure it’s safe to come out again. And even the animals are busy tending to the little replicas of themselves that have decided to finally make an appearance and see what all the hubbub is about. You really can even smell the newness of life. Spring is truly an awesome time.

Autumn, on the other hand, is about as far from new life as one can get. Things are fading in the Autumn. All that new life that emerged a mere six months ago is now in the process of either perishing or preparing for a long, cold slumber…hardly cause for joy and happiness I suppose. But it’s the way they do it…sure, everything is in the process of either expiring entirely, or at least making it seem like they are. But this expiration is done with absolute gusto, almost as if nature is trying to make sure that it’s done right, just in case this is the last time it’s able to. Look at the trees…inwardly they must know that it’s only a matter of time before the icy wind subsides, allowing them to awaken yet again as they always have. But even if this thought has occurred to them, they still go into their dormant state with a bang…their leaves turn from a bright green to blazing reds, oranges and yellows, making the woods in which they live light up with brilliancy as the sun shines down upon them. And then, after we have been enchanted by the abundance of magnificent colour, the leaves flutter to the ground making a blanket of crunchiness that is great fun to run and, when raked into huge piles, jump into. The crisp coolness of the air makes you walk a little quicker and gives everything the wonderous odour of frost…mingle that with the tangy smell of burning leaves and wood, and that is what Autumn smells like. Truly glorious!

Then there are the animals. You have those that amble about, trying to get their fill of the leftover berries, mushrooms, or whatever else they can find to fill their tummies enough to keep them asleep through their long hibernation. Others scurry about, looking for acorns and beechnuts to stow away in their tree homes to keep them through the ice and coldness of the winter months. The latter tend to be very comical in their expeditions, as they chatter and screech at anything that comes close enough to be thought of as a threat to their precious stash. And then there are those that prefer to leave over the prospect of the snow and frigid temperatures, flying off to more temperate regions. It always brings somewhat of a forlorn feeling to hear them honking in the distance, but at least there is the consolation that they will be back soon enough.

But there is one other reason to love Autumn. One that is not quite as ostentatious as the others, but much more subtle and underlying. You see, as those things that were living, die, they make way for rebirth. For you cannot have rebirth without first, death. You cannot have the new without first having the old. In other words, you cannot have Spring without first having Autumn. The old and dying of Autumn are making way for the new life of Spring. You cannot have one without the other, and for that reason I have such a love for Autumn. Without it, I could never enjoy the pleasures of the Spring. Isn’t it interesting how nature took two such contradictory things, and forever bound them together so neatly? Interesting indeed…wonderfully so.