While it is fall in name only in many parts of Canada, here in the North, we are most definitely in the thick of it.
Fall is birch and aspen shimmering gold; it is the leaves of the fireweed and wild rose turning yellow, orange, deep purple, scarlet. It is a breathtaking display of colours on the tundra. It makes me think of a richly woven carpet, spread out over the mountains. We take drives out to Tombstone Territorial Park, just up the highway from our house, to drink it all in.
It is a time of dark nights filled with stars and undulating aurora borealis. It is sometimes damp. It is morning frosts laying the tall wild grasses low, and sweetening the cranberries that hang ripe on the bush.
Fall here is guys in checkered flannel jackets asking "Got your moose?" over cups of coffee in the Eldo. We head to the hills on warm afternoons, plunk our babies down in the soft moss and lichen, and fill our buckets with wild blueberries, keeping the conversation up so the bears know we're there. We hurry to get the garden in, chopping, blanching, freezing and canning, listening for the soft "plink" of the jars sealing. We work on the woodpile, bucking up logs into stove-lengths, splitting, stacking.
Fall is the final push to get it all done before cold weather and dark nights settle in. The miners pull the last bit of gold from the ground, and the bartenders and blackjack dealers pull the last bit of gold from the miners. The seasonal businesses run down their stock, close up hotel rooms one by one for the winter; the boards are nailed up over the windows and doors. The town is quieter, now.
More than anything, fall up here feels to me like leaving. Maybe I haven't been here long enough yet to feel settled. Maybe I've just got leaving in my heart. It is a tightness in the throat as we watch the cranes fly overhead and the seasonal workers hitch their way out of town, back to Toronto or Vancouver or Montreal.
For those of us left behind, it is a time of drawing in, and of reconnecting with friends after a busy summer. There is a scramble to find someone to shack up with, making high rent and long cold nights more tolerable. We hunker down as winter approaches, we speculate on what kind of a winter it might be, sizing it up with more than a little apprehension.
Fall here is brief and beautiful; it is hurrying up and slowing down all at once.