Is there anything more trite than observations about the changing seasons and how we react to those changes? Poets, composers, and painters have had a field day with that subject, using it to explore attitudes toward life and death, the cycle of the seasons serving as a metaphor for the cycle of life. While I have no profound views to offer, at this time of year I’m unable to resist writing about the shift from fall to winter that is now upon us. I leave it to others to muse on deeper meanings; for me the change is practical.
Full disclosure: winter is my favorite season. I love snow and the activities it makes possible, particularly in my case snowshoeing and downhill skiing. I’m very fond of fall for its foliage, and I’ve learned to tolerate summer because I can bike and boat. I really, really don’t like spring, when the lengthening light triggers my RSAD (reverse seasonal affective disorder). It’s a real disorder, affecting 5% or so of the population, in whom it induces claustrophobia, anxiety, and mild depression. Winter may appeal to me precisely because it’s the opposite of spring: daylight decreases, and sun on snow opens the world and mitigates claustrophobia (okay, there’s such a thing as cabin fever, but an hour or two on snowshoes in the woods easily overcomes that).
As the switch from fall to winter begins, the ritual in our house is called Seasonal Adjustment. Bikes go down to the cellar to enjoy their long winter’s nap; skis and snowshoes come upstairs; parka, gloves, and goggles migrate from a remote closet to the main one. Snow shovels come to the porch, scrapers return to the cars, and snow tires are installed in the one vehicle that lacks AWD. Fire wood is loaded on the porch, handy for frequent restocking beside the stove.
Seasonal Adjustment is now underway in our house, and in a few days all things winter will replace all things fall and summer. Then the wait will begin for the first serious snow. We’ve had a few inches here and there over the past weeks but not nearly enough to provide the full cover I yearn for.
When that first serious snow comes my wife and I will head to the trails in the woods above our house with our snowshoes and begin tracing the various routes we favor.
The beginning of the season is like the ending in April: too much low vegetation will still be uncovered, brooks will not be fully frozen, and trees blown down by the recent winds will block some trails. But we’ll be out there, overcoming those small obstacles so we can once again experience the thrill of silence and bright sunshine on crisp white snow while we watch for the tracks left by deer, moose, foxes, and rabbits. After that great first day on snowshoes, we’ll await the next milestone event: the start of the downhill ski season. We live at Sunday River Ski Area, or more exactly in a small development a half mile from one of the lodges. Although skiing has been going on (and off) for the past few weeks at Sunday River, we wait till serious natural snow joins the manufactured variety and allows access to a few dozen trails. If the past is a guide, we’ll be taking our first runs in early December.
I anticipate all this with the glee children feel as Christmas approaches. Christmas will be great, too, with family and friends gathering for multiple seasonal celebrations. But it’s the snow, the cold temperatures, the bright sunshine that really excite me now as winter approaches. Does this say something about my character? Am I acting out some deep human need to celebrate the cycle of seasons/life? No doubt, but abstract thoughts aren’t really on my mind right now. Summer and fall were fun, and I’m grateful to have had them, but winter is fast approaching. Bring it on!