August has snuck up on us and now here we are, gazing at September, watching the coming winter roll up like a wave to crash ashore cold and hard.
It reminds me that a year ago I arrived in the Yukon.
Thinking of it now, the nights were already getting darker. I was living at the hostel in West Dawson and had to flash my lighter so that the ferry would see me and my bike at the town landing.
Riding up the path to my trailer sans a headlamp, my tires tripped on loose rocks. Even a week earlier, I could see where the rocks were.
Light is now a gauge in which, more than a calendar, I, along with all northerners, differentiate the passing of time.
Until winter solstice, the nights get longer. Then, the reverse. Following summer solstice, we watch the night creep back in.
We examine and converse about the lack of darkness, then the lack of light, like southerners talk about the weather.
Emerging from the depths of the Westminster Hotel, where time is differentiated by “Pit o’clock”, a star was sighted the other night—a detail deserving of “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” from the audience.
We celebrate the solstices and anoint the new seasons with ceremonies and traditions.
At winter solstice, a quiet collection of musicians play in a fire circle on the river bank. Woes are written down on strips of paper and cast into the flames.
At summer solstice, costumes and props adorn a drunken crowd at the top of the Dome. Howls rise from the congregation to mock the midnight sun.
The leaves are changing now and gardens are coming to harvest. My squashes are fattening and heads of cauliflower are showing. The tomatoes don’t have long. The broccoli will never have its chance.
The wild raspberries are done and cranberries and rosehips replace them as red bursts studding the boreal landscape.
I picked raspberries last weekend until the mosquitoes got so bad a single yoghurt container was all I took home. The mosquitoes will go away soon—one comfort to look forward to—but I will not have enough raspberries to make jam.
The light causes a flux in the people too. Summer workers make plans to leave while winter residents make plans for dinner parties and worry about their winter living arrangements.
One artist dreams of holing up in a studio and eating 99 cent burritos. Another contemplates reheated potatoes and gravy for affordable sustenance.
The tourists are still rolling through in a lineup of RVs down Front Street and toting fanny packs in a lineup at Gertie’s, but it’s break-up time for couples, make-up time for friends, time to say goodbyes, welcome backs, and move.
The classified section of the community newspaper I manage is exploding with items for sale. Among the listed are properties, vehicles, and one hope a for house sit.
It’s time to count the paddling trips down the Klondike and sip final Americanos from Riverwest.
Freeze up is in three months and the coffee shop will close.
I look at the cracks in the bottoms of my mukluks and wonder if I should resole them, Tuck Tape them, or buy a new pair.
The winter jacket is done though—the zipper is busted beyond repair.
I took the sourdough starter out of the fridge this morning and fed it. It’s time to take another stab at a project that has thus far yielded a small hard loaf and a succulent batch of raisin scones.
A soft loaf with a crisp crust would pair nicely with cheese and the $13 wine I plan to pop with the few dollars made from the heap of summer recycling returns.
A year in the Yukon and night returns. It’s settling time.