All the signs of winter

Michael Johansen
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Ask almost anyone who lives in Labrador what his or her favourite season is and he or she will likely name the next one coming.
When snow has been lying a metre or two deep on the ground for two or three months, when the temperatures regularly plummet to minus 40 C or lower and vicious winds cut like knives across the ice to slash exposed skin and penetrate layers of thick clothing, with frigid results, the vote is almost unanimous: Spring is the best season.
That holds true especially for those - and there are surprisingly many both among people born in Labrador and those who come from outside - who say they detest winter most of all, but the sentiment is not confined to them. Even those who love winter beyond words (like those who have snowmobiles grafted to their rear ends) eventually find the long white months becoming too much of a good thing. By April just about everyone is longing for spring, wishing the lengthening days will finally warm up and melt the snow away.
However, since seasons change so gradually in Labrador even spring, no matter how joyfully greeted, tends to outstay its welcome. True, the sounds of running water, the almost forgotten feel of warm sun on bare skin and the refreshing sight of bright green leaves budding on trees are all feasts for the senses, but unfortunately human senses are easily sated.
They always need new feelings to excite them. As well, spring wears out its welcome by being a confining season in Labrador.
People feel stuck. It's too late for snowmachines and too early for boats. People also grow tired of slush and mud, especially when they're made worse by a last-gasp snowstorm. Soon they just want it over with. They want summer to begin.
And begin it does, often coming as a surprise after the long wait, as if those who wished for it never quite believed it would arrive. But before you know it the waters are teaming with boats, everyone gets involved with plans for the many festivals and regattas, and the beaches fill with indolent sun worshippers intent on wringing every last drop of heat out of the air, perhaps hoping to store it in their bodies like fat cells for lean times. Heaven, it is, until the bugs come out, until the blackflies, mosquitos, stouts and midges multiply to such numbers they carry little pets away for breakfast and supper, until they drive hearty men and women insane with their endless torment. That's when autumn becomes the favourite.
Autumn is the bittersweet season. Of all of them it's the one that's never quite long enough. Spirits rise as the high temperatures come down and the bug hordes mercifully subside. It becomes a great pleasure to be outside again, to enjoy walks in the woods where the leaves are changing from green to yellow and the last of the redberries wait fully ripened in the early frost.
Autumn is the busy season for all things, human and otherwise, that live in Labrador. There's no time to be bored when there's nests to be built, food to be gathered, and wood to be cut. Those that don't prepare for the coming winter simply don't survive it. That's why the pleasure of fall is perhaps the best of all. Even as you lift your face to touch a warm breeze, you're reminded of winter by the signs of cold that are all around. First snow falls on the high mountains, then on the hills, then it brushes the low valley ground. Freshwater ponds and streams take on delicate rims of ice and soon afterwards even the sea itself begins to freeze. The deep cold is not far away.
So, however much you might love winter it's still sad to see fall go, since of all the seasons about the only thing that's wrong with it is that it must come to an end.

Michael Johansen writes from Labrador

Geographic location: Labrador

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