While we’re getting ready to throw off the winter woolies and head for the beach, spare a thought for our northern hemisphere buddies who are just preparing for the colder months ahead. Still, nestled between summer and winter is autumn, one of the most beautiful months in the Yukon, so says Margaret Goodwin.
There’s a certain chill in the morning air that becomes noticeable around late August. We try to deny it…“No, it can’t possibly be fall already!”…but then the tips of the trees begin to change from summer’s lush green to bright yellow. The first smell of wood smoke starts to scent the air. And you know the steady march towards winter has begun.
But before the snow arrives we’re treated to the glorious northern autumn. I live in Canada’s Yukon – north of British Columbia and right next door to Alaska. Our summers are short but incredible, however my favourite time of year is definitely autumn. It’s short – lasting a couple of weeks in the far north and about a month in the south – but what it lacks in length, it more than makes up for with its extraordinary explosion of colour. In the north, the sub-Arctic tundra blazes across the landscape in a riot of red, pink, violet and gold. Further south, the aspen, birch and willow glow yellow and orange in the Indian summer sun. Mountainsides are painted crimson and gold. Morning frosts crunch underfoot.
Lines of migrating birds are strung out across blue skies as they make their annual sojourn to warmer climates where they will spend their winter. Joining them are the road warriors in their RV’s driving along legendary northern highways on their way south. The town is left to the locals once more.
You can’t help feeling a sense of wistfulness as all the visitors leave and life returns to normal.
But for those of us who call this home, autumn is the time for gathering – one of the best traditions of the season is to go berry picking for wild blueberries and cranberries. It’s peak fishing season and humans and bears alike are out in the rivers and lakes stocking up for the coming cold. The local squirrels get busy collecting their winter food cache. It’s a time for reconnecting with friends after the busyness of summer. Of enjoying Thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin pie. And crisp, juicy apples.
Autumn also brings with it the return of darkness. This is the land of the midnight sun which means several months of almost total daylight. But as we approach the autumnal equinox night time returns, and with it one of nature’s most wonderful spectacles. The Northern Lights – or Aurora Borealis – reappear to begin their winter dance across northern skies.
Not only does the landscape change, but the light undergoes a transformation as well. During the autumn there’s a gradual softening of the light and lots of long, tranquil, violet twilights.
This is a place where you can really feel the seasons change. After the whirlwind of activity that is the northern summer, autumn feels like a time to begin to look inward. It’s a time for becoming still and quiet, like the landscape around us. As we move into October, the leaves have all fallen and the first snows have dusted the mountaintops like icing sugar. Nights are crystal clear and cold and its time to sit by the fire, drink hot chocolate and prepare for the long winter ahead.
What is your favourite season of the year? Do you think it compares to the dancing Northern Lights and crisp autumn morning of the north?