It’s that time of year again. The school buses are back on the roads, the trees are a few hard frosts and a couple of strong gusts of wind away from revealing their bare branches, and there’s a bittersweetness to each warm, sunny day. Fresh snow covers the mountaintops, and time seems to be flying by. Blink and you might miss the end of fall. Here are a couple of ideas for how to savour it a little bit more, so that hopefully the arrival of winter won’t feel quite as startling.
1. Walk around outside, barefoot. For a large part of the year, here in the Yukon, it’s not really possible to walk on the bare ground, shoeless, and somewhere near the middle of winter I usually start yearning for that connection to the earth again. Benefits of earthing/grounding are said to include a decrease in inflammation in the body, improved sleep and mood, increased energy and lower levels of stress. Whether you believe in that or not, there’s something undeniably calming about being outside and having your bare feet touching the grass, and your bare skin soaking up some late-autumn sunshine while the geese and swans fly south. Mosquito season is behind us, and while the mornings and evenings can be quite chilly, try to give yourself a moment to relax and breathe deeply somewhere between cutting firewood and finishing your last outside yard projects of the year. Take off your shoes, peel off a layer or two of jackets and sweaters and appreciate the present moment, for a few minutes, before bundling up again. At the very least, your body will thank you for the extra vitamin D.
Go out in the forest. It might seem like the time for berry picking and foraging is behind us, but there are still a multitude of medicinals to gather in the woods. Cranberries and rosehips are at their best after a few frosts and are loaded with vitamin C, which is perfect for our long winters and the impending flu season. Juniper berries make for a wonderful herbal remedy to stock up on, with their anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and diuretic properties. Labrador tea leaves can be picked year-round (even in the middle of winter) and have traditionally been used to treat colds, as well as many other ailments. Even mushrooms can still be enjoyed in late fall. While a frost may change their texture a bit, there are several fungi friends that can still be picked in September and October.
Gather seeds in your garden. The growing season in the Yukon isn’t long enough for the seeds of many plants to completely mature, but there are some that you can harvest in your own garden, either to plant again next year or to share with friends. Arugula, radishes, spinach, peas and cilantro are among these; and in the realm of flowers, there are also many that usually have enough time to produce seeds (among them are poppies, calendulas, California bluebells, clarkia, flax and many others). While it’s tempting to clean up your garden in late fall, in an attempt to get ready for next year’s spring, try to refrain from cleaning it all up (many birds will be grateful for the leftover berries and seeds in the depths of winter). There’s also no need to pull out vegetables such as kale and Brussels sprouts. Both can withstand many frosts, and even if you don’t finish eating them all, you may wake up one morning in December or January and find a moose enjoying the remaining leaves and stalks.
Make some end-of-season bouquets of flowers. Fill your home with the last flowers from your garden. Inevitably, the temperatures at night will keep getting colder, and soon enough will come the day when there’ll no longer be any more flowers to pick. Make a bouquet of sweet peas and put them on your nightstand. Cut some sunflowers and bring them into your kitchen. Gather an assortment of flowers and take them to a friend. A fun fall activity to do with your kids is to collect colourful autumn leaves and use them to decorate your home, or press flowers and leaves between the pages of books—to later make into Christmas cards. Gather some special rocks on your next walk; before you know it, all of these things will disappear under a blanket of snow for the next several months. Treasure the little things: let them act as hopeful reminders that warmer days will come again.
Spend time with friends. While long winter evenings theoretically might seem perfect for get-togethers with friends and family, the realities of a northern winter provide more than enough motivation to potentially transform even the most-outgoing person into a temporary hermit. The icy roads, warming up the car at -40 degrees, and the beginnings of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), all make for legitimate reasons to stay at home. So try to take advantage of this last bit of nice weather and gather your friends around a campfire. Go for a walk along the lake and listen to the sound of waves lapping the shore, before the water freezes over. Take one final canoe ride on a windless, sunny afternoon, or go fishing one last time before you have to pack an ice drill with your fishing gear again. Pull out your mountain bike and go for a ride through the colourful foliage. You’ll be thankful for these memories when the north wind is blowing around the corners of your home and all you want to do is cozy up on the couch, with a cup of hot chocolate, and binge watch your favourite TV shows.