December Melancholies

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December 2015, Deer Isle

I crossed the suspension bridge that connects Deer Isle with mainland on an evening with heavy fog and a bit of rain. The low visibility accentuated the darkness of a place with no traffic or streetlights. The mist and drizzle lasted into the next day adding to an atmosphere of mystery that often draws me to islands. I spent hours outside relishing the peace and quiet of an island off-season, its luscious green moss, deep woods and rocky beaches already luring me to come back.

Is it the self-reliance of a place surrounded by water that makes it so attractive? The resulting strength rather than isolation? Or the deep connection of its inhabitants with nature that comes from their co-existence with land and sea? Deer Isle in early December was mysterious, reserved and enchanting, like a beautiful and tenacious woman; fascinating for her independence.   

In his 1978 speech to graduates of Fredonia College, Kurt Vonnegut muses that there are six seasons instead of four:

“The poetry of four seasons is all wrong for this part of the planet, and this may explain why we are so depressed so much of the time. I mean, Spring doesn’t feel like Spring a lot of the time, and November is all wrong for Fall and so on. Here is the truth about the seasons: Spring is May and June! What could be springier than May and June? Summer is July and August. Really hot, right? Autumn is September and October. See the pumpkins? Smell those burning leaves. Next comes the season called “Locking.” That is when Nature shuts everything down. November and December aren’t Winter. They’re Locking. Next comes Winter, January and February. Boy! Are they ever cold! What comes next? Not Spring. Unlocking comes next. What else could April be?”

The in-between season, “Locking,” carries a special charm.  This is the time when the landscapes of Maine and Czech Republic closest resemble each other.

Nature is quiet and subtle in its colors, the sun low on the horizon, past the vivid hues of Fall with bright maple leaves that immediately reveal their New England identity and before the thick of winter with it is powerful Nor’easters. The colors are soft letting the smells and sounds of nature stand out, the leaves swish under my feet, the twigs crackle, an occasional crow cries out.

Yes, those more knowledgeable about flora could argue that the trees of New England are nothing like their Czech friends. And some, companions on walks through the woods, have tried to educate me about the different species, their bark and leaves. But somehow that information never penetrated into my long-term memory like the impressions of my childhood walks.  I am content that rotting leaves smell the same everywhere.

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