Have you ever felt like you were looking down a looong tunnel with little to do but head forward? Okay, that might be a little melodramatically bleak, but in the right light fall can feel like that to me.
I know that winter is coming, and while I love the first six weeks of winter here in Michigan, I also dread the February doldrums. … Slogging through knee deep snow crusted with ice that’s almost, but not quite, thick enough to support your weight… filling horse water buckets for blizzards and spilling water down your pants only to freeze in place moments later, wind-burned cheeks that peel and sting, canceling entire workdays due to windchills in the -20’s… Yes. Michigan winters can be intense.
This time of year I’m stuck trying to keep myself focused on the beauty of fall. It can be difficult, though! Each day another part of the garden gives up the ghost, flopping over and surrendering to the earth. “I give up!” cry the squishy tomatoes. The basil begins to blacken with the chill nighttime air and the raspberries turn into little red mushy … mushes… on the cane because it’s just so darned wet out. It’s difficult to step back and look at the positive things that come with fall sometimes. Sure the leaves are turning and the apples and pears are there, and I admit for the most part that is enough for me. This year it just seems like since I’ve been preserving more than ever I am more aware of the fact that the wonderful, exciting and colorful fruits that I’ve been filling my life with are about to only exist in their preserved forms. I think Susy is right – it is definitely important to focus on eating, enjoying and appreciating the produce while it is in season. I must remember this for next year!
Anyway, so yesterday I took a vacation. I was overwhelmed with the plucking of pears and the scrounging for un-damaged tomatoes.
It was sporadic. We left early in the morning. I doubled up the sheep’s hay, closed up the barn except for the chicken door and we were off with the sunrise, driving towards western Michigan to visit my aunt, uncle and my cousin who is in visiting from England. This was the perfect escape to really appreciate Michigan at it’s finest. The weather was dreary and miserable, but when the storms are blowing right off of Lake Michigan it is surprisingly easy to ignore the misery and to get caught up in how gloriously powerful a large body of water can be, especially when it’s broody.
My cousin, Sarah, took us to one of her favorite spots on the lake. It was a beautiful hike through glacial hills and out onto dunes before the landscape gave way to the pounding waves of Lake Michigan. The mist was blowing in waves of its own through the air, mimicking the cresting undulations along the shoreline.
As I stood on the edge of the lake, trying not to squeal as the water lapped my nearly-blue toes, I realized that yes winter is on it’s way, and nature is ready to let loose, but there is beauty even in the cold, wet and grey. It makes the colors richer and certainly sharpens the senses. A day trip was exactly what I needed to help me come home refreshed and ready to start prepping for the winter.
Of course today is rainy and miserable as well and I am once again soaked to the bone – Michigan throws these days at us a lot this time of year – but I feel like I’m able to look at the impending cold and dark as less of a threat. It’s just another kind of beauty and without the dark and cold we couldn’t have the wonderful bounty that the warm seasons bring.