COLUMN: Every season, a new world

This is my weekly column for the Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune. The column was bumped up to Saturday this week. Don’t think that’ll be a regular deal.

Every season, a new world
By Aaron J. Brown

Always the words come, “how can you live here? It is too cold.” And I say that it is not too cold; it is temperate. We live in the very definition of a temperate climate with “hot,” “cold” and “miscellaneous” holding power in a weather triumvirate. To say that we are too cold is to say that you prefer reality without anything unpleasant. Good luck with that. We in northern Minnesota accept the world as it is: Often disagreeable, but worth living for – if only out of spite.

Or should I say we accept the worlds as they are. In a place like northern Minnesota the seasons don’t just change the weather, they change our way of life. Our very routines morph like the leaves of trees, viscosity of water, or flights of birds. Each season is a new world built on top of the old, forged by the progress of time.

Consider for a moment summer, the season we’ve now safely left behind. We each built our summer habits: bike rides, swims, walks to get the mail and books read on the porch swing. The air smelled of pollen and open water; grass smooth like carpet. The sun burned into the evening, seven o’clock like a lazy afternoon.

That’s all over now. Dinner means night. The metal trash bins at the dump turn cold to the touch, brisk wind rattling the heavy plastic covers. Above, we see trumpeter swans glide over the demolition pile, wings whistling.

Gunshots crack the wind. Bird season, you know. The other day George piped up from his seat at the table.

“That big bird is lookin’ at us, bwaaaahahaha!”

After a pause, Molly Dog added: “Bark! Bark! Bark! Bark! Bark! Bark! …” And then she digressed.

It was a pair of grouse, of course. The birds must know they are safe in my yard. I’ve decided not to shoot any non-threatening animals so long as I am gainfully employed. Peeping birds, another sign of fall.

As the patriotic fervor of an election year approaches, I can’t help but notice that the only bald eagles I see these days are working the low end of the food chain. Nothing invokes American exceptionalism like the emergence of a majestic eagle from the chest cavity of a deer recently dispatched by a logging truck. Ben Franklin may have had it right about the national bird all along, his preference being the wild turkey – the original “angry bird” whose inopportune deliciousness prevented it from ascending to prominence. Eagles, meantime, are a summer inspiration, an autumn interloper.

Just this past week I grew to accept the leafless forest, branches like bony fingers to the sky. I know I’ll always need a coat and now maybe a hat. The car’s air system is set to red. It won’t see blue until Easter, if then.

We journey now to another new world, one with the first wet snow of the year, boots and shovels. Add 15 minutes to your drive; no more making up time on the back roads. Seeing stars means your eyes will freeze. Listening to the iPod gets tricky with gloves on and off, so we settle for old songs and this is what makes us grumpy. No, not the cold.

Yes, when it is cold here it is very cold, but all things belong in their place. That season – still nameless – will come, revealing a new world of frost crystals, snow mountains and dazzling night skies. There is no guarantee we will survive to the next season, but most do. Maybe you and maybe me. Let’s leave the past behind and set out upon land made new by time.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor. He writes the blog and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on 91.7 KAXE.

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