lamenting the end of winter

To my chagrin, winter is as good as over and summer is waiting in the wings. Summer is looked forward to every year like a long expected visitor.

To my chagrin, winter is as good as over and summer is waiting in the wings.

Summer is looked forward to every year like a long expected visitor. It’s fun at first, staying up long into the night, the non-stop activities, one jam-packed day after another, until you wish the guest would return to his home and leave you to recover in peace.

At least that’s how I always feel by the time June draws to an end.

I have already taken out our bird books in preparation for the migratory flocks, which must begin to arrive within the next two weeks, I imagine.

Sam and I are particularly untalented, if not hopeless, birdwatchers.

Much as we enjoy the busy flashes of colour around the cabin, identifying what is what invariably defeats us.

If one species has a revealing way of flight or telltale wingtips, you can be sure that instead we paid attention to the colour of the rump or the shape of the beak, which then turn out to be indifferent features on that particular bird.

Sam’s pee spot in the snow is a great attractant for birds, sort of a bush version of bird feeders, where whole swarms peck around and socialize, giving us time to compare them with the pictures in our books (which never seem to resemble the live birds in more than a most fleeting way).

It has become a spring ritual to fire off ignorant e-mails, requesting answers to the latest bird question, to our friend Willy in town. He can apparently identify a bird in the blackest night by the sound of its flight.

Despite our bungled descriptions, Willy never fails to recognize what species we saw, as becomes obvious when we look up his suggestions in the bird book.

Of course, it was a dark-phase immature male on the western limits of its migratory route, so easy to distinguish, once you know.

Every spring I’m tempted to dazzle Willy with a made-up bird name, such as a “stipple breasted late morning finch,” but for such pranks one needs at least a rudimentary knowledge of birds and that still eludes me.

My theory is that my difficulty with birds is the result of childhood trauma, caused when I fervently wished for a four-legged furry pet (preferably a dog but I would have settled for a mouse) and budgies were the only animals that my parents allowed.

This must have brought on a subconscious mental block about birds. I’m not sure what Sam’s excuse is.

While we wait for the birds, our seedlings begin elbowing for room in the cabin until they can be transplanted outside in a month or so.

True, fresh garden produce is a lovely side effect of summer.

Swiss chard and garlic pizza with tomatoes sounds very good right now.

If only we could restrict summer to such bonuses, but there is always the endless string of things to do that crowd out the fun stuff. It is partly the anticipation of this deluge of varied activities that is already causing me to yearn for winter again.

Summers are just way too busy, when bird watching, gardening, foraging, milling, building, town trips, shopping, visitors, visiting, fishing, paddling, hiking, and working are squished into a period of time that manages to be both too short and too long.

The frenzied activities of animal and plant life, with renewed mining exploration descending on the land like a plague of locusts, always make me wish for the sedentary pleasures of winter within a few weeks.

I cannot imagine myself as a snowbird in my golden years, leaving for southern climes when it gets cold here. If anything, I can see myself heading for northern Ellesmere Island for the summer, gazing out at the odd ice flow, should there still be some around by then.

How strange that few tourists come up here in the winter, which is the season that defines the North.

Winter only sounds formidable because that one word is used for the entire six-month period through which we recover from summer.

Surely, light-flooded April with its shrunken snow cover is a different world from the dark, frigid ice fogs of December.

To my mind, “winter” can be broken up into three sub-seasons; a topic I will fondly think about once we’ve mangled our migratory bird identification, the bugs are out, the garden is planted and summer is beginning to outstay its welcome as usual.

But for right now, I’m looking forward to spring. Willy, prepare yourself for our bird questions.

Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.

Just Posted

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before using it on Nov. 24. The Yukon government is reopening the drive-thru option on June 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Drive-up COVID-19 testing opening June 18 in Whitehorse

The drive-up testing will be open from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. everyday and increase testing capacity by 33 spots

A draft plan has been released by the Dawson Regional Use Planning commission on June 15. Julien Gignac/Yukon News
Draft plan released by the Dawson Regional Land Use Planning Commission

Dawson Regional Land Use Commission releases draft plan, Government of Yukon withdraws additional lands from mineral staking in the planning region

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Let them live in trailers

“I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city… Continue reading

X
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for June 18, 2021.… Continue reading

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Yukon News file)
Yukon logs nine new COVID-19 cases, 54 active cases

More CEMA enforcement officers have been recruited, officials say

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council at its June 14 meeting

Murray Arsenault sits in the drivers seat of his 1975 Bricklin SV1 in Whitehorse on June 16. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Bringing the 1975 Bricklin north

Murray Arsenault remembers his dad’s Bricklin, while now driving his own

A presumptive COVID case was found at Seabridge Gold’s 3 Aces project. (file photo)
Presumptive COVID-19 case reported at mine in southeast Yukon

A rapid antigen rest found a presumptive COVID case on an incoming individual arriving at the 3Aces project

Jonathan Antoine/Cabin Radio
Flooding in Fort Simpson on May 8.
Fort Simpson asked for military help. Two people showed up.

FORT SIMPSON—Residents of a flooded Northwest Territories village expected a helping hand… Continue reading

A woman was rescued from the Pioneer Ridge Trail in Alaska on June 16. (Photo courtesy/AllTrails)
Alaska hiker chased off trail by bears flags down help

ANCHORAGE (AP)—An Alaska hiker who reported needing help following bear encounters on… Continue reading

Two participants cross the finish line at the City of Whitehorse Kids Triathlon on June 12 with Mayor Dan Curtis on hand to present medals. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
2021 Kids’ Triathlon draws 76 young athletes

Youth ages five to 14 swim, run and bike their way to finish line

NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq rises in the House of Commons, in Ottawa on May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Unacceptable’ that Inuk MP felt unsafe in House of Commons, Miller says

OTTAWA—It’s a “sad reflection” on Canada that an Inuk MP feels she’s… Continue reading

Lily Witten performs her Canadian Nationals beam routine on June 14. John Tonin/Yukon News
Three Yukon gymnasts break 20-year Nationals absence

Bianca Berko-Malvasio, Maude Molgat and Lily Witten competed at the Canadian Nationals – the first time in 20 years the Yukon’s been represented at the meet

Most Read