Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Nothing makes me feel more Canadian than sitting on a coffeeshop patio, overlooking Toronto's downtown vista, sipping on a hot apple cider. The autumn months are so gloriously necessary in a region that goes from boiling hot to freezing cold: they're like a palate cleanser, easing us into the cooler season.

As I rediscovered this summer, to my great dismay, I'm not really a summer person. Oh, sure, I enjoy the long days and the direct sunlight, but Southern Ontario is such a moody girl when it comes to temperature. Last summer featured a number of days in a row where just up and dying was probably the best option: humid, shadeless days that hit temperatures like 45 Celsius without even blinking. Since I rarely sweat, my cooling mechanism is deficient. It's a tricky line to walk when the slightest midday exertion creates an internal furnace that's been cranked to its highest setting. When I was reading The Windup Girl, the recent future-set novel by Paolo Bacigalupi about the food apocalypse, the Thai kingdom and weird sex - it was a barnstormer, let me tell you - I identified with the titular character, whose pores had been created too small for tropical Thailand and she would overheat. When I read that, I was like, "Aha! It does happen!" and then remember that, no, not really, it doesn't. Fiction is tricky that way.

In any case, while there are elements of the summer I enjoy, the heat is definitely not one of them. So switching to fall mode, where the days are cooler and the colours on the trees come out, is a nice breath of fresh air. I know it's a prelude to winter, which we're contractually obligated to hate, but the light is amazing and the pressure is off to have as! much! fun! as! possible! Summer is all about the 75-day sprint between Victoria Day and Labour Day: barbecues, bike rides, splashing in the water, drinking all night, free concerts in the park, run as fast as you can. I love it, but I also love the slower pace of the transition seasons. Spring is all about emergence, but in a way, so is fall. After the hustle-bustle of summer, autumn is a great time to take stock and settle into routines: the kids go back to school, people stop taking Fridays as sick days to drive four hours to the cottage, tights are reintroduced under dresses, and the underlying structure of our daily lives comes back into focus. It's nice.

I mean, sure, there are downsides to every season. The transition months in spring and fall are loaded with allergies, and there's that whole Daylight Saving thing that ruins everyone for a while. My favourite fruits disappear from the grocer and the patio is hit-or-miss. But in terms of terrible moments, fall's sort of great. Unless it rains the whole time. Then it's more of a bummer.

While I'm not really excited about winter weather, I'm jazzed to see how this one goes, brain-wise. I'm one of those folks who hibernates, getting fatter and more reluctant to leave the cocoon of the house, but I'm tired of that routine. I'd like to keep this veneer of normalcy up, in the hopes that it solidifies into real healthiness. Summer, while busy, recharges our batteries; winter drains them. Spring and fall are a happy compromise, asking for and giving little except the sun on your face and the knowledge that things are nice for a while. That's all I really want.

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