The Isolated Season
The High Holidays are over. I’ve mentioned before in posts that I sort of key our sense of time off of our Jewish holiday schedule. It’s a good way to live, in anticipation of this or that time of communal celebration.
In between Simchat Torah and Passover, aside from Shabbos and what minyan times we can make, I feel like we sort of turn inward. In Maine, that means dealing with leaves and preparing for winter. But we’re a little more isolated from our communities, because there’s work to be done. We’ll break that up with lights of the chanukkiah, but really, does it even end until the first Pesach seder?
We bought a leaf sweeper late last year, and used it already to good effect. However, on a wooded, 12-acre lot like ours, with really only our driveway and about an acre around our house clear, it’s a losing battle with the foliage as soon as it starts dropping.
We get a few beautiful weeks with an explosion of reds, oranges, and yellows. It starts up in the trees, but within a few weeks, we have a carpet of reds, oranges, and yellows on the ground. And after the next rain, we have a blanket of wet, brown, molding ruin.
It’s at this point that I just run the mower and mulch it. It’s good for the grass as fertilizer, I don’t stress relocating big piles of leaves to down in the woods. I still have work to do at the corners and under low-branched trees. I have to clear out the gardens. But it’s over far more quickly.
I was grateful it all held off turning to the rotting mass until after the last of the family departed from Amelia’s bat mitzvah. Early autumn is indisputably one of the most attractive seasons here in Maine, though we’ve come to love all but mud season. I love every snowfall. I love the flowering and greening at the beginning of spring. I love summer here. But fall is a phenomenal visual experience.
I think, too, in late fall, that what I love after the beauty of the transition has faded, is the sense of exposure. You can see a greater distance into the woods than you could previously. It gets darker earlier. The owls cry in the naked dark holds ominous portents. There’s a vulnerability that adds a sense of urgency to cutting a few more cords of firewood, buying a few more canned goods. The world is about to become a little more perilous, from temperatures, to scarcity, to road conditions.
So we’re isolated in this desolate time of year. I’m not averse to it. In fact, I welcome it. But it’s increasingly too cold for fun walks with the kids. We can take out the canoe or still go for a bike ride, sure. There are activities all over the place. But they don’t last as long, the shortened days see to that.
So, we enjoy what we can when we can, but prepare the wood stove and the winter window coverings. My skis are waxed and their edges are sharpened. My snowshoes are ready to go. We need to get a new sled for the girls and for winter firewood hauling. We have birdseed, because the blue jays and chickadees don’t retreat. Thick socks. Heavy blankets. Tea. Cocoa. The last of the fresh cider.
Think about us, friends and family that live further south. Think about an isolated little family in the woods on a dark, late autumn Friday night, our little Shabbos lights burning bright but alone, with two little girls waiting for the season to change again, so they can run.