November has never been my favourite time of year. The rapidly shortening days combine with deteriorating weather systems to create a cloud of doom that shrouds my days.
For me, a sense of loneliness accompanies the darkness. This is the time of year when C. goes off in the car, driving to the wintery interior of the province to join his brother and son on their annual hunting expedition. The three men spend a few weeks camping in a canvas wall tent with a wood burning stove to keep them warm. They spend their days hiking the hills in search of deer, their evenings in cozy companionship.
It can be a lonely time for me. Now that our children are grown and gone, I am at home by myself, holding the fort until C. returns from his holiday. Last winter when our old dog Molly was still alive, I had her constant company. Caring for her kept me busy and I was not alone, though at times I still felt lonely.
One might well ask why I bother to stick around. Why not pack up and go off somewhere warm, or at least somewhere else where there are more people, more things to do? Years ago, living in London, one of the biggest cities on earth, surrounded by people and traffic and general urban chaos, I often felt lonely as well.
It doesn’t seem to matter whether I am surrounded by millions of humans or millions of trees. The sensation is not a new one; for me it is a sort of gnawing hunger for something else. Lonely? Or bored? For me the two are synonymous.
There are other reasons to stick around the old homestead. Aside from being my home, and therefore where I usually prefer to be, there are the two cats, elderly Leo and not-so-elderly Cisco, who still need to be fed and cared for.
There are the chickens, although we are down to the last two survivors now, the rest of the latest flock having been picked off, one by one, over the past year by murderous mink.
Then there are the systems. Being off the grid as we are, there is the micro-hydro, solar, and generator powered electrical system to keep an eye on. This is what runs the freezer that keeps our year’s supply of deer meat, salmon and berries preserved until we are ready to eat them.
There is the domestic water system (water hole, cistern, pipes and fittings) to keep an eye on. Most of the time nothing bad happens, but at this time of year, someone needs to be here to keep an eye on these systems in case the weather turns cold and the water pipes start to freeze, or in case a line or a fitting gives way causing the system to drain completely. I suppose there is a certain sense of responsibility that keeps me here, bored, lonely or not, for the time being.
As for being bored, well, there is never a shortage of things to be done. I still have not cleaned up my mason bee babies for their overwintering session in the fridge; they are still cocooned in the little bee house, hanging on the back porch waiting for attention. There are paper bags full of dried vegetable and flower seeds, harvested and awaiting cleaning, labelling and storing for next year’s garden.
There are plenty of knitting, sewing and other arty crafty projects waiting to be started or completed. Shelves full of unread books beckon. There is a never-ending list of house-cleaning projects, but nothing seems to appeal at the moment and I am fed up with clearing out dusty, cobwebby corners.
To top it all off the loggers are back at it. Full on logging is taking place up the hill behind our home. Every morning before daybreak two or three crew boats speed past on their way to the barge landing where they spend the day tied to the little dock there. The loggers go to work up the hill, alongside the lake where for many summers we swam, played, paddled about in the canoe, fished lazily for cut-throat trout that live in that serene and beautiful place.
Now a fresh clear cut creeps up the slope from the shore at the far end of the lake as an industrial logging road winds up either side of that lake, going nowhere, forever.
There is a constant cacophony of chainsaws, a feller buncher, two or three logging trucks roaring up and down the wide roads, hauling out the old forest that once surrounded the lake. Once in a while there is a loud explosion as more dynamite is employed to expand the infrastructure of logging roads. I hear the big loader whining and crashing as it works to fill the waiting log barge with piles of sawed off trees like so many giant pick-up sticks.
These trees that once grew peacefully on the hills of this island are on their way out of here, destined for who-knows-where, but most certainly a saw mill on another continent. All this just amplifies my loneliness. I feel grumpy and restless. I am bushed!
The day before yesterday I decided that I really needed to get off this rock! Nearly three weeks since I last went to town and I was running low on milk and a few other necessities (wine! sanity!). During the night the weather had changed. It was dry and calm and the sun was shining. I grabbed my shopping bag and got dressed up warmly for the half hour open speedboat ride to H. Bay, on the larger, neighbouring island.
H. Bay is a tiny place with an antique hotel, a grocery store, post office, café and gift shop. I moored the skiff to the dock at the Inn and hiked up the road to the store. After checking the mail and purchasing a few supplies I decided to treat myself to lunch at H.’s café next door to the store.
As I went about my business, exchanging a few words with the store clerk, the barista, a few passersby, I soon felt my mood beginning to shift. After a tasty piece of quiche and a delicious cup of coffee, I hoisted my box of groceries, walked back down to the skiff and motored home in the last of the sunshine.
Travelling back home, admiring the expansive view down the Gulf of G. and ahead to the cloud-capped, snow-kissed mountains of the mainland coast, I felt happier, more relaxed, not as lonely as I had earlier in the day.
Sometimes, it seems, a change of scenery, some fresh air and a touch of human contact is all it takes to lift the dark cloud of a November day.