How winter starts

How winter starts

The carpenter and I say about the hound that he loves his routines. We don’t know that he loves them, of course, but we do know that he expects and enforces them. He’s ready for his 5 pm walk at 4, when he becomes an embodied reminder, quietly but insistently sitting down with his nose eight inches from my thigh as I work at my desk. I know it too, and start an hour-long patter of apology and delay for him to please hold his horses and yes I now he has to pee, until I have answered the urgent emails that can’t wait till 6.

We humans are routine seekers as much as the canines we project our need for a daily cycle onto. I am sure it is part of our pattern-seeking behavior. And we take it much further than the hound does. We don’t just want our breakfast at six and our afternoon walk at four, we count on spring to be followed by summer in a quiet and orderly fashion like Canadians leaving a building when someone yells “fire!” **

Every year it seems, early snow has us moan, “not yet, wait until November,” and the odd 75 degree day in March starts worries that the trees may start blossoming too soon and we won’t have peaches/apples/pears/plums this year.

And sometimes we don’t. That’s how the seasons work of course and why farming should be seen on the much longer than annual cycle that the banks both love and don’t like. The seasons are inevitable and in their own way progressive, but not nearly linear, orderly, or quiet.

Which is why I am roaming the bog looking for the edge of the early ice. At this time of year it comes and goes, the sunny spots may lose their glitter and stillness by 8 am on a bright sunny day but in the shadows it doesn’t quite disappear and grows larger every night.

Last week, the edge of ice on the far southwesterly edge of the bog that had been growing for a few days looked like it might be here to stay. Gorgeous bubbles frozen in mid-bubble might be, I thought, committing the folly of prediction, the stuff of photos until they were obliterated under the inevitable late-December snow.

Gone. Melted in gentle showers and gentle overnight temps. Melted in the unusually late onset of winter. My brain perks up to find a pattern: “Global Warming?” I scramble to the great world of information to find data. I look at average temps and low lows for the first half of November for the past 20 years and they fluctuate violently. If anything it seems to have gotten a little colder in the last five years, with lows as low as 15F in this period. Keep that up, and the world will go down in ice. ( Robert Frost reading “Fire and Ice”)

The onset of winter is violent and destructive, but not hateful. Things grow and put forth leaves because that is what they do. They aren’t desperate, they just do it until they are arrested in doing so by a force that does not even see them grow. Just like the beet I harvested will put forth a leaf or two in the veggie bin until I dump it in the boiling pot.

Though the onset of global warming is, like seasonal change, invisible except around the edges until you zoom out, we won’t believe it until we see it with our own eyes. Whatever that means, which depends on your political coloring.

But this isn’t about politics. It’s about how I experience my own aging. Inevitably, I am a little less of muscle every year, a little less of brain. But I am not that beet yet. I am putting forth roots and shoots because that is what I do, and so far I haven’t been arrested yet by a force that sees me not and throws me into the boiling pot. It simply continues to be time to sally forth on new ventures, use brain and muscle cells as much as they will, because that is what I do, not out of desperation in the face of eventual demise.

Okay, a little desperation maybe, desperation buried easily in laughter as the woman follows the hound, carefully trying to backtrack from the edge of the currently possible in the bog in leaky boots, but loses her balance, gaining it only by stepping deeply into watery mud hidden under dying grass, offering up her feet in exchange for staying upright. A squat to keep from tilting over entirely, the hound, excited at all the thrashing, jumps up to join in the play of wildly wheeling arms – nonono …

Desperation thrown back in the expectation of a glass of wine and raucous irreverent laughter and off color jokes with friends, ignoring the omens that abound.


** Shush, Canadians tell jokes on themselves about their calm in the face of calamity and I am married to one so I get to repeat them. Oh, and you do know that it is remotely possible that I might exaggerate sometimes in this blog, right? It ain’t journalism.

Check out the images of winter starting. Click on one of the thumbnails to get the album. It may take a moment or two…

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