The land is starting to look the way I feel. Leaves are throwing themselves to the ground, adamant for snow, the mountainsides have lost all colour and even the northern lights are only pale imitations of themselves these days. A general glumness seems to pervade everything, though that’s just on the surface. An undercurrent of haste runs through it all.
It’s that washed-out feeling after spring, summer and fall: naked trees and orphaned tools strewn across the property. The pressure of still having to get so much done before the snow flies but only a token bit of energy left to do them with. Tricky to think of it all, maybe because it’s such a wild variety of odds and ends.
Instead of raising their ugly little heads during the day, most of these thoughts creep in at night, preferably around two a.m., when what should have been a short lurch out of bed to go pee turns into a mental marathon. Take down the hummingbird feeder. Didn’t it leak, months ago, when there were still hummingbirds around? Should maybe throw it out. Have to get a new one in time for spring though. Hm, might not remember that. Better hang on to it. And the stapler, the one that actually works – where the heck did we use it last? Oh, and laundry! But I already had to break ice on the last load I put out to soak, should have washed those sheets weeks ago. Well, that’s just too bad. And on and on it goes.
Oppressive thoughts, these. When I would rather fritter away the day with leisurely walks, emitting the odd moose call just for fun, before firing up the wood cookstove to bake some bread and disappearing into a good book. Instead, Sam and I are dashing around much like the incredibly fat vole that lives underneath the cabin, hastily moving things from the outside into shelter. Painting and staining in a last ditch effort to beat the weather, as well as doing repairs.
Like the snowmobile ski that at first couldn’t be fixed because it was too cold, then summer and the bugs happened, along came hunting and harvesting season and suddenly there’s just a tiny window of time left before it’s already winter again. And then there are all the propane bottles and tools that need to be gathered up and put away, the garlic that still has to be planted and the rusty mouse traps which have to be replaced with new ones.
Funny how it’s the same routine each and every fall, how we seem to be incapable of getting better organized. If we’d start all these left-over chores in August, there’s a shimmer of hope we wouldn’t be shrieking out the door during the first snowstorm because we just remembered that there’s still something to be put away.
But then again, wouldn’t I feel left out of the action, sitting around lazy and all well-prepared, while everybody else is frantically preparing for winter? It’s the small animals that winter with us who seem the busiest: pine cones bitten off the trees by squirrels and shoved into holes in the ground, the morning rattle of our mousetraps. A sound not indicative of a rodent in death throes but of the ermine on her breakfast circuit – she’s developed a taste for dead mice and does her best to pull them away with her, thwarted only by the wire with which we stake out the traps.
It’s become our morning routine. Coffee by candlelight, then the animated mousetrap clatter on the porch followed by the feeding of the beasts. A mouse or two for the ermine, who is hopping around in anticipation behind the kerosene jugs, barely able to contain her excitement. The remaining mice for the grey jays that are by now conditioned to the morning squeak of our backdoor, and fly off with the stiff corpses to fill their larder in the trees.
After that, it’s time to tackle our to do list, trying to find back to the urgency about doing laundry that gripped me at two a.m. Waxwings dot the poplar branches like plump fruit, suddenly rise in a whirring cloud, and head south where most of the loons have already gone. Longingly, I stare out the window. I want peace and winter. Now.
Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.