Listen Now
Pledge Now


Of Woods And Words: What Winter?


FinalCut_ OWW_10132010.mp34.15 MB

 I’m prone to seasonal amnesia. In the dark, coldest bits of winter, I become convinced that spring will never come. Likewise, in the midst of summer, when I’m splashing in the lake on hot afternoons or taking advantage of the abundance of daylight by spending evenings out in the fishing boat until the sun dips behind the horizon, it’s hard to believe that someday not too far off, winter will come and the world will freeze.

To be honest, sometimes in the middle of summer, I wonder just how we can stand such long winters. How do we do it?
I know I’m not alone in my disbelief about the changing seasons. A few years ago I told someone how hard it is for me in the summer to imagine the trees without leaves or frozen lakes. “I know,” the other person said. “I can’t remember what it looks like from one season to the next.”
I wonder if our tendency to throw ourselves so hard into the current season that we forget any other time of year says something about northern Minnesotans. We may pretend not to remember one season from the next, but we do know that each season is fleeting in its individual wonder, and that be it winter, spring, summer, or fall, each season deserves to be enjoyed fully, without wasting too much thought on the seasons that have been or are to come. We’ve seen too much snow in May and September not to spend our Julys saying, “What winter?”
Deep down, I know soon it will be second nature to stomp across the frozen bay outside the cabin. It just seems so utterly ludicrous that this will soon be a reality. If I were to attempt to tromp across the bay today, I’d just get really wet and cold. With the tamaracks blazing yellow and orange along the roads and trails, it seems silly to think about winter when there is so much beauty to soak up in this very moment.
I always assumed my seasonal amnesia meant I was longing for a more temperate climate with less capricious seasons. One winter in England quickly cured me of that assumption. In London, winter is nothing more than a dark, grey, rainy, dead five-month period of time. By the time March rolled around that London winter, I longed for a good blizzard to break the bleak monotony. There was value, I realized, to being able to structure your life around a whimsical four-season system. 
Still, I don’t always profess to love the four-season system. Today, as the days grow shorter and the mornings darker, I call on my seasonal amnesia to prevent any thoughts of the approaching winter. As much as I want to cover my eyes and plug my ears, as much as I wanted to pretend that the new woodstove we bought last month was for dealing with the hypothetical, I know winter will be here soon.
Because I can see the seasons changing before my eyes. It seems that in one great sigh, the trees all shook off their leaves, and now walks in the woods are punctuated by their crackle underfoot. Around our bay, the docks are coming in. The summer neighbors have said their good-byes and now ours is the only light shining out over the bay each evening.
Watching all the neighbors pack up reminds me a little of that saying we used to yell when we were little: “Last one there’s a rotten egg.” It seems everyone around here has shaken their seasonal amnesia to make all the necessary preparations for the encroaching winter. But it’s not that we’re rotten eggs at the cabin. We know winter’s coming. I just can’t imagine it yet.
Airdate: October 20, 2010