Will We Make It Through the Winter?

It is fall, the trees are losing their leaves, and my head is defoliated as well. I cut my hair yesterday, taking it from a wild mane of curling tendrils down to the nub. What does this change about my life? Socially, people acknowledge the change, as they do the weather and the daily shifts into the cooler season. Most of the changes have been physical. I have been frequently noticing the weight of my head, the fit of hats and hoods, and the breeze tickling my scalp.

Autumn transitions us into a time of reflection as well as uncertainty. Will we make it through the winter? How cold is it going to get? Do we have enough food? Have I finished everything I wanted to do in the garden? One thing I noticed about living in the Northeast is that people keep far busier during the warmer months, as if they want to fit a full year of experience into two or three seasons of warm weather. In fall, the plants slow down, but the people speed up, finishing up projects and checking everything off of their lists before the frost hits.

This cycle can be observed on many planes. Fall’s sensations feel to me like a waning moon, before the utter dark of the new moon presses the reset button. There is a savoring of color, as the leaves put on their grandest finale in the act of dying. We all wish we could press the pause button, but in nature’s infinite wisdom, time grinds on and winter’s slow calm settles things down.

Recognizing death and decay is even more pronounced as different cultures celebrate the final harvests, days of the dead, and other traditions with the winter solstice. Most domestic animals get slaughtered around this time, as it would require a lot of feed to keep them through the winter, and the meat can be cured and stored to keep people alive instead. Last minute canning and preserving fills homes with warmth and fragrances that draw families into the kitchen and around the fire. Gratitude has its own scent as it wafts through the air, filling each individual with a hearty meal to chew on during the darkest days.

It amuses me that humans originally evolved from tropical landscapes, in the warmest parts of the world, where it never frosts and fruit is ever-abundant. It takes a special kind of wanderlust to travel as far as our species has; to colonize the arctic in the middle of an Ice Age and survive on mammoth meat and blubber. We are soft-bodied, nearly hairless, and specialize in using tools to replace our physical incapabilities.

What tenacity and audacious survivability led us to be the top of the world’s food chain? Now we are free from most predators and have reproduced to the point of world domination, but we still suffer from these weaknesses on an individual level. Even so, we create art, dance, sing songs, and write blogs about these very weakness. What punks, rioting and thriving in the face of impending winter, cutting their hair right before the very time when they need it most.

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