The long fall into winter

It starts when you shut the windows. For most of the summer the windows have been open. They breathe in and out on behalf of the house. Sometimes you have to shut them for rain, but most of the time the house and the outside are in a daily equilibrium. Cool in the morning, heating up in day, and cooling again at night, in a pleasant exchange between inside and outside.

Then one fine day in late August, you shut the windows that have remained open all summer, and open only a few of them by special exception, during the day, by conscious action. Summer’s equilibrium between inside and outside has ended. We are no longer in the equivalent of winter in the Caribbean. A few traitorous maple branches turn flaming scarlet or orange, and the rest of the woods start to have a tinge of orange and the edges.

At the same time clothing is added as insulation. We no longer dress for decency but for insulation from the nippy air. It starts with summer shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, and a pair of sandals. Then in latter August an extra shirt has to be thrown on in the mornings. Then we progress through long trousers, and the sandals eventually come off and are replaced, for the first time in months, by shoes and socks, which no longer feel sweaty and uncomfortable.

A cold night in late August finds us dressed in long pants, and fleece, as Jupiter is seen in its magnificence in the southern sky, and the summer triangle of Deneb, Alta’ir and Vega is over the top of the house in the early evening, on its way to setting in the west by ten thirty, no longer the glory of a summer sky at 2am. The Milky Way appears more prominently in the dark skies, and one stays up less late to see it.

Eventually a fire is lit in the stove to keep the chill out of the house. The cat no longer can be let in and out by the screen door, and the sliding glass double-paned doors are used to keep out the cold.

Mornings find the house enshrouded with fog from the lake, as it gives off its heat. The fog burns off to reveal a world bedewed, the grass refreshed and green. But if humans cannot stay outside, why should leaves hang around? Soon they will fall after turning from green to yellow orange and flame red.

Summer people pack up and return to cities to get back to work and send their children to school. The village empties out.

It is a good thing we have a transition several months long between summer and winter. Otherwise we should die of shock from how cold this country is in January.

I hope your chair by the fire has a good reading lamp. You will be sitting in it for months to come, as snow swirls around the house. But that is a few months away yet.

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Summer days
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Early fall in eastern North America
Train at Baie St Paul, by Clarence Gagnon

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