Finding light in the darkest season
Wednesday, November 24, 2021
I was in our backyard scrounging up some random pieces of flashing for my long-planned chicken coop renovation when it hit me. Padding softly over the spongy rain-soaked lawn between the tool shed and the scrap pile behind my firewood racks, I glanced westward through a break in the evergreens and caught sight of a spectacle that stopped me in my tracks.
A low-drifting band of quilted clouds was glowing purple in a molten-pink sky and somewhere just below the darkened rooftops the late-autumn sun was evaporating into a radiant golden haze.
Beholden as I was to stand idle and savor every last ounce of such a luminous horizon, it only took a couple of minutes before I heard the Lady of the House tapping on the kitchen window to divert my attention.
When I craned my neck to issue the requisite affirmative nod, she pointed at the sky and deployed an emphatic thumb’s up.
For the umpteenth time in our middle-aged, nature-loving lives we were pleased to be situated at just the right moment in just the right place that allowed us to share the beneficial effects of an illuminative, emotionally uplifting phenomenon that this indiscriminately mossy, rain-engorged neck of the woods is renowned for generating.
Although neither of us are covetous by nature we freely admit to being greedy in this regard, a predisposition which only succeeds to intensify by multifold degrees whenever the days start growing shorter and the autumnal storm cycles hasten us into the icy jaws of winter.
Simpatico as I am with the survival instinct to hunker down for extended periods indoors during the current precipitation onslaught, experience has taught me that cold, dark, sloppy conditions also serve to increase the potential for encountering certain types of critters, plant life and atmospheric vistas whose presence animates even the most empyrean depths of hibernal gloom with an aura of discovery and wonderment.
Alongside a professed inclination to pursue snow sports and snow-sports-related activities that help stave off the desultory effects of the darkest season by stimulating sustained bursts of adrenalin and endorphin-induced euphoria, I am just as likely to invest vast stretches of time undertaking more contemplative-based outdoor activities that lead me far and around throughout the lower but hardly any less inspirational coastal elevations.
Generally speaking, when I’m not sun bathing at Teddy Bear Cove, patrolling the seabird-strafed beaches of Semiahmoo Spit, circulating through the Trumpeter swan/snow geese-packed fields on Fir Island or meditating expressively in a tinder-dry grove of Chuckanutonian cedar trees, you can find me crawling around the moss-carpeted duff with an oversized magnifying glass in dogged pursuit of the inexpressibly bizarre yet riveting antics of our region’s paramount terrestrial gastropod—a lusty, ravenous, hermaphroditic creature known commonly as the banana slug.
I won’t pretend my methodology is strictly scientific in observing the three individuals who currently inhabit my study zone. But compared to the day-to-day crap storm that humanity is putting itself through right now, it feels like the ultimate safe space down there—a miniaturized version of paradise going on beneath the sandstone cliffs and ferns.