Living in New England means living with four seasons, means taking things out, putting things away, realizing that, as the weather changes, our lifestyles do as well. We tend not to need bathing suits and towels this time of year; we put our bikes away, take out the rakes and start sporting those socks we've not seen since May.
While I do have friends who wear shorts far into December, I, for one, adopt the longer styles of wear, grateful to cover up my legs, my arms, my back. I like the cocooning of warm sweaters, big coats, scarves, gloves. I like the cover up, the readying to hibernate, the darkness and warmth of the upcoming months. I embrace the covering of a multitude of sins with cashmere, wool, and downy feathers.
Alas, it can be daunting and, of course, rather dismal to see that sun go down so early. My husband will ask at 6 p.m., "Can we go to bed yet?" And, having been raised by the notion that "early to bed, early to rise…" is the way to go, my early-bird self embraces any notion of bed time. I love sleep and am grateful that once I put my head on that pillow, I'm generally out within moments. Ahhhh, bliss.
But one cannot sleep for an entire fall and winter (discounting any bears out there who are reading this column and responding, "Oh, yes we can — and yes we do!"). So there are ways to enjoy this change of season, this darkness beyond isolating, hibernating. Having lived in both the Netherlands and Alaska, I've had a myriad of opportunities to live in challenging climes and have learned several ways not only to endure but to relish this time of year. Really. It can be done.
First off, simply because, oh baby, it's cold outside, get out in it anyway — no matter what the weather. Holland boasts those beautiful tulips and wonderful canals in every postcard — but neither of these would exist without their climate of lots of gray, lots of rain and lots of cold, wet weather. It's November a lot over there, kind of an endless New England November without Thanksgiving and the Patriots. But what do the Dutch do? They ignore the weather, wear fabulous bright colors, invest in outstanding rain gear and never, ever cancel an event due to rain. Oh, and have an amazing umbrella.
When I mention having lived in Alaska, I'm often greeted with a gasp and a look of awe. Much as I'd like to feign having trekked up Mount McKinley, worn mukluks and speaking fluent Inuit, the truth is, my experience in Anchorage was not a whole lot different than northern New England. It's cold, it's dark, there is a lot of flannel and aside from the, literally, endless summer nights, not hugely different than here. But I did learn, again, to get out of the four walls, away from the screens and get outside.
Friends and I cross-country skied … a lot. We ice skated ... a lot. And while the sun was out that blissful four or five hours on winter's day, it was necessary to get out and soak in that Vitamin D. I still ski and skate here — really. I pretend I'm gearing up for the Olympics in '14. And, who knows? Maybe I am.
My other trick to surviving the Last Frontier? Knitting. Friends and I gathered for knitting classes in Anchorage and I am reminded how wonderful it is to get ensconced in a group in the middle of fall and winter and make something. I love the yarn shop here in Dover, Spinning Yarns, where through knitting classes I've formed beautiful friendships AND have some wonderful sweaters to show for my efforts.
There is nothing like sitting around a table with friends and knitting. No screens, no "likes" and "pins" but actual touching of beautiful wools and the click of needles and laughing at ourselves as we knit and purl. It's a lovely pastime in the darkening New England fall…and very down to earth and necessary. And, almost as fun as sleeping!
Happy October! Stay well, stay tuned, stay down to earth.
Susan Dromey Heeter's "Down to Earth" column appears monthly in the At Home section. Her other column, "Budget Vogue," appears monthly in the New Hampshire Sunday News.