Saturday, November 10, 2012

Losing the Light

Yes, it's that time of year. The sun is going away to visit those strange people who walk around on the bottom of the earth with their heads upside down. (I've sweat while riding my bicycle during March in New Zealand and spent a Christmas at 100+ degrees in India which just isn't right. I've always lived above the 40th N parallel, so I have a natural bias about where the sun is actually supposed to be and that North is up.)

At this time of year, my early mornings aren't defined by wishing I'd remembered to close the curtains to block the morning sun, but rather opening them to look out and wonder when it will be rising.

And I live in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. That means that in reality, even during the daytime, we won't see the sun much over the next four or five months.

I love this time of year!

Okay, I know it's whacked. I have friend who has Seasonal Affective Disorder pretty badly. She doesn't just dislike this time of year, she's actually afraid of it, knowing that it brings a battle that I can barely imagine.

But for me there is so much wonder going on. So, at a time when so many of my friends, even those without SAD, are hunkering down, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite things of the season:

The fall leaves. I mean OMG! It's like some crazy artist painted the world beautiful!

English country lane in Autumn | Jongleur100

I used to run the college planetarium. For four years I ran shows and then led people out into the freezing cold of the crystal clear nights of central Maine. I knew dozens and dozens of the constellations. And not just in our western form but the Native American, Australian, Chinese, and other versions of many of them. When I look up into the cold fall sky (on the nights when the NW clouds allow it), I see many, many old friends. I remember camping out under the Northern Lights. I remember getting people so excited about the beauty of it all. Then I'd set up the telescopes and really knock their socks off. When I look up, I can't help but think of Arthur C. Clarke's line from "2001: A Space Odyssey." "My God! It's full of stars!"
Interstellar dust clouds in constellation of Orion | PD-NASA

We used to live in an old house house that was a bit of a critter palace. Aside from a minor infestation of humans and one very feisty cat, the house had a fairly active community. There was a hive of bees that lived in one wall of my office (they found their way in through a gap in the outside shingles). During the hot summer days my wall hummed with that glorious sound of bees busy about the task of keep everything in order. As a side bonus, just the faintest whiff of honey sometimes made it through the wall to cheer up my writing desk. There was a small family of bats who lived on the shady side of the house. Just before sunrise you'd hear these little thumps, like someone tapping their fingers on the outside of the wall, as the bats came home to roost.

And the house had a squirrel. We loved this squirrel. Each fall it found its way into the attic right above our bed. We could hear it build and stock its nest each fall. And through the winter, every once in a while, we'd hear it wake up, shuffle around and stretch out those old kinks from sleeping too long in one position, have a quick snack, and then fuss with the insulation and whatever else it had collected into a more comfortable nest before going back to sleep. It was the coziest sound.

''Tamiasciurus douglasii'', Douglas Squirrel. ;Date : July 09, 2003; Franco Folini

That silly little squirrel is one of my favorite memories of the fall season. We've long since moved on. But when my wife and I curl up together on the coach to watch a movie or read books together, I always think of that squirrel, warm, cozy, content in its little winter nest.

Yep! I love this season!


  1. Greetings, fellow northwesterner! I would love this time of year if it weren't for the cold. However, I do lover curling up with a book by the fire. :)

  2. I love squirrels! I grew up with flying squirrels in our house walls, and my mom still feeds them in the fall and winter, so she can watch them on her window sills. I miss them, now that I am on my own. Thanks for sharing your wonders and taking me down memory lane. :)

  3. I love this time of year too. It's actually not so hot for once, and I don't mind that it gets dark early because it tricks my daughter into going to sleep.

  4. I love fall. The colors, the cooling down after long, hot days, the anticipation of Thanksgiving when my whole family comes home and my house becomes a zoo! I even like the long, cozy evenings when it gets dark early. Great post!

  5. A perfect season, one of my favorites. Though I must say I have never heard anyone wax poetic about squirrels like you just did. A very cute story, thanks for sharing!