Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Look and the Feel of Autumn

It is near the end of October. The wind has been blowing and the trees are being stripped of their leaves, but tonight the air is still, cold but still.

Out by our driveway there’s not much to be found of all those brilliant red leaves that adorned the maples earlier or the delicate red-orange of the sumacs, and the yellow leaves have now flown from the paper birches. In sheltered spots, like under the pines, there are patches of yellow and orange on maple saplings, the kiwi vine is just starting its shift from bright green to equally bright yellow, the bush behind the hydrangea has turned the most beautiful coppery red, and our burning bush is still burning, though the upper branches are now showing their tiny orange berries rather than the bright red leaves in the photo.

Before supper we walked around the Frog Pond. There were yellow pine needles on all the trails and yellowing leaves on the sawtooth and trembling aspens. We still saw a few red maples, and on the way to the house the oaks on either side of Purcell’s Cove Road glowed golden. When we drove over Mount Uniacke last Friday on our way to the Valley, there was not a leaf on a tree at that height of land, but it was a wonder to see the soft yellow-green of the needles on all the tamaracks. It is autumn here and the leaves are slipping away.

I am writing this for a young friend who lives in Istanbul and yearns for the colours of a North American autumn. We think of her often as we look at the various shades of the changing leaf colours and the light they cast over everything. An old friend used to say when she was looking and looking that she was collecting and saving images against her old age and her blindness. I also keep looking and looking even though I'm not really thinking of age or blindness, but I can’t look hard enough to allow that dear friend way over in Istanbul to see what I see. Since I don’t have much in the way of photos, I have to try to convey it through the images of these words.

The woodstove is on right now, the night is dark, and the bright autumn moon is moving toward full (check it out here – it's October 28). When you venture out, you can feel the dry coolness that our friend loves, air that makes you want to put on a good pair of socks and a jacket over your sweater. It is late October and we are near the end of our autumn colours, so if you are anywhere that has the look and feel of a North American autumn, think of our young friend who would love to be here in autumn, and get out and enjoy it, for her as well as for your own self.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Cat in the Hat

On Sunday we saw a friend of ours in his new hat for the first time. It was a brown fedora, a great hat, and it changed how he looked and how we saw him.

This is a friend who likes on occasion to acquire new and good quality things, and the hat was both new and high end. You could tell as soon as you saw him that it was a good hat, and though it was a change in his look, it really suited him.

I held it and admired the weight and feel of it. I looked inside and saw that it was made in Italy by a company called Borsalino, which, it turns out, is one of the world’s finest hat makers. Of course it would be, I realized.

I tried it on, and remarkably it fit my large Anglo-Saxon head exactly. Our friend said that it was a 60, which is the metric equivalent to a seven and a half in our traditional hat size system. It felt good on my head, even though I am not much of a hat person, except for necessities like my tuques in winter and my faded Merganser for summer sun.

Our friend said that wearing the hat made him feel a lot like his father, whom he said he was coming to resemble more and more (this is a feeling I also know!).

I told him that we had noticed a couple of years ago in Paris the number of very distinguished looking gentlemen wearing classy fedoras. Then I noticed it in some high end areas of Istanbul. It was a fedora trend, and our friend was at the cutting edge of fashion.

When I told him this, he insisted the Borsalino fedora was the farthest thing for him from a fashion statement; it was, he said, a movement toward his very unfashionable father, whose fedora was likely made in the USA. And he described a recent moment when he was walking at night, saw the shape of his shadow on the sidewalk, and realized that he had become his father.

I remembered my own father, with his strong nose and chin and a pale grey fedora with a long curved brim. He looked sharp in it, I thought, but it was not a look I ever desired. I still don’t, but I did like the feel of our friend’s fine Italian fedora. I especially liked the trimness of the brim, and our friend said that he did too; in fact, he said that maybe he really wanted to look more like a 50’s jazz musician than like his father, whose fedora would have sported (so to speak) a more conservative and broader brim.

And he did! I told him he was actually a hep cat. He smiled his large and affable smile.

He was, in truth, the cat in the hat.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

First frost, first fire

It is almost three weeks since my last post and some things have changed in the interval. We were fortunate to have a good stretch of calm dry weather while we painted the house and then while I moved the firewood into the shed, but this morning the north wind is persistent and the temperature at the airport is 0.1 degrees. That's colder than I like in October, but that's the way it is; storms have been swirling through here driving rain against our windows and filling the wheelbarrow, and it seems as though the wind has been funneling from the north or northeast for more than a week. There has been a change in the season.

When we lived in Istanbul, Lorraine talked about the seasonal changes that happened there and the fact that there seemed to be one day in the fall where the temperature just dropped by ten degrees and stayed there, and a day in the spring where it jumped up by ten degrees and stayed. I didn’t think that it could be as simple and abrupt as that – and perhaps it wasn’t entirely – but it really did seem to happen. It suddenly got colder or warmer and stayed that way; the season just changed. Seems like it’s the same here this year.

I'm happy that the wood is in the shed and the house is painted, because the seasonal change has happened. Not only have we had our first fire, with that faint smell of burning dust and the clicking sounds in the stovepipe as the stove heats up, but it has been going most days and nights since we started. The wood this year is good, it lights easily and there is little of the bubbling and hissing you get with damp or unseasoned wood, and we are back into the woodstove ritual, bringing wood up from the shed, making sure there is kindling, building the fire, watching the burn, and adjusting the damper – all this so that we can enjoy that radiant warmth through this changed season as we move toward winter.

The other part of this picture (though there is no image to illustrate it) is the first hard frost of the season. It happened earlier this week, and it wasn’t without warning. This was not the “Risk of frost in low lying areas” notification but a simple “Frost warning continued” from Environment Canada, and they were right. I looked out in the morning and saw that the windshield of our Subaru was completely white. When I checked the leaves of the bean plants that I had covered in plastic the night before, they were a darker green, a sign I needn't have bothered, while the hostas were suddenly yellower and a little more wilted.

Frost had struck, the first of the season, and once that has happened there aren't many more surprises. More frosts will follow, and we will continue our seasonal descent, whether we like it or not.

So, it's time. Feed the stove. Get the gloves out. The season has changed and winter is coming. You might as well get ready and you might as well like it.