There’s snow here now, and there has been for about a month. It was weird: unseasonably warm autumn with low squinty sun but comfortable afternoons on the porch, and 48 hours later there were nine inches of snow on the ground. Later this weekend we’re supposed to pick up another six inches or so. I think that’s cool. Last fall I was a little miffed – we’d had an anemic summer without any real heat and the snow came early. I felt cheated out of a season. This year, our last snow fell in late February. We had an almost unprecedented snowless March. I had our garden entirely planted by the first of May. Then September was dry, and October was warm enough to give us a second crop of heirloom tomatoes. This might be the longest I’ve gone (except when I lived in Eureka CA for a year) without trudging through snow. I can honestly say I’ve missed it.
I was prepared. I raked the yard, I drained the hose and shut off the spigot, I cleared out the garden. I was just waiting for mother nature to tell me I didn’t have any work to do outside for the next few months. The window boxes were all blank, and ready for a covering of reflective white insulation. In short, it was time to hibernate. This summer was awesome, it was long, it was hot, it was glorious, but now I had a new winter coat from Old Navy and a pantry full of canned vegetables and jams, and I was fully prepared to make the shift from grilling green and red things in a citrus marinade over flames to frying orange and brown things in animal fat over cast-iron.
Plastic went up on windows, salt went out on sidewalks, and Kev went into a warm bath. Seriously, if it’s going to get dark this early in the afternoon I’m going to put on pajamas and check out before dinner. And thank god I live in a place where such is possible. All summer I keep sandals on and stand in front of the grill until 9 P.M., but come November I can step into slippers and sink down into the LaZBoy at 5 when it gets dark and watch the news, or a movie, or all six seasons of The Sopranos (over the span of several weeks, of course).
Since buying a house I’ve come to realize that this is an important time of year. And perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself with it, as well, for first must come the holidays. There’s shopping to be done, and family parties to attend, brittle and bark to be made, gifts to be wrapped, et al. There is really no relaxing, in the true hibernatory sense, until after the first of the year. However, the winding down of the outdoor activities and the battening down of the homestead for the impending winter is an essential first step.
The Earth itself will actually cocoon us into idleness if we let it, and after New Year’s Day I fully intend to let it. It’s one of the glories of this landscape: In the summer our workshop is the whole of the world (or the whole of our world, anyway), an immense expanse waiting to be subjugated and controlled by us in the form of lawns, gardens, parks, etc. In the winter our purview moves indoors to a smaller, more controlled, and more insular kingdom. My basement is finally going to be tamed, if only because it is my only habitable frontier for the foreseeable future. In the mean time, the raspberry sticks in the side yard will have free reign over the sidewalk because it’s cold and no one else would want to walk on it. I’m inside with a book, or a pie recipe, or a band saw and a blueprint. Eventually though, this house will bore me to tears. I love my house, but it is small, and doesn’t offer the kind of creative challenges I would enjoy. I will organize my basement, and repaint the bedroom, and want another canvas on which to work. With any luck, by then most of the snow will be gone and I will be able to move my operations back outdoors to rebuild the herb beds, expand the lettuce garden, shape the hedge just so, or adjust the boulevard garden for larger and more extravagantly humble stock. Anything to keep me busy and out of the house until I need to hibernate once more.