The wind was blowing from the north this afternoon with enough force to raise whitecaps on the river. I opted to walk northward, partly because the river trails to the north are more sheltered than many of my other walking routes, and partly so that I would have the wind at my back on the way home.
Winter is coming. I know it’s a cliché, but you really can feel it in the air. The wind bites through all my layers of clothing. The trees are skeletons of their summer selves. The leaves that made soft shushing sounds when they first began to fall a few weeks ago are now dry and curled, and rattle erratically as the wind sends them tumbling across the pavement.
For a person who likes change, I live in the perfect climate. Four very distinct seasons mean that there is always a transition about to happen. The signs of winter preparation are all around me. Leaves have been raked and bagged. Barbeques and boats have been covered. My patio pots have been harvested. I decide that it’s time to bring in the patio furniture.
On my northward walking route one of the river-side restaurants offers its clientele the option of arriving by boat. Now, though, the dock has been dismantled and the sections hauled up onto the shore, where they are stacked like building blocks, far enough up the bank, one hopes, to be out of reach of the spring high water level and the crushing force of the ice.
Regardless of what the calendar says, around here winter starts when the snow arrives. We’ve already had a few flurries, but those don’t count. Winter is measured by the snow that blankets the ground and stays. And that can happen any day now. Or it can mess with our expectations and hold off until late December. I recall a few years when we waded through snow banks to go trick-or-treating on Halloween. I can also recall the odd year when the snow came so late that we wondered whether we would have a white Christmas.
But it will come. Because as much as the cycle of the seasons is about constant change, it is also about predictability. Fall always turns into winter, which eventually give way to spring, which is guaranteed to be a precursor to summer. And then around we go again.
There’s a certain comfort in the cyclical. The river will freeze and thaw, rise and fall. Every spring the weather warms up just as I am growing sick to death of my winter wardrobe. Every fall I thrill to pull out my sweaters because I am so relieved at the arrival of cooler days. Each season has its routines– its rituals and traditions. Before you know it we’ll be clearing away the pumpkins and pulling the Christmas stuff out of storage.
Somehow the slow, familiar rhythm of the seasons provides an anchor for my life. I know where I am in the universe by where I am in the seasonal cycle. “Winter is coming” is not a dire threat of cold and hardship. Rather, it is a promise that the seasons will keep turning on their majestic wheel in spite of the small tragedies and petty dramas that clutter my days.