Jim Furlong: The Season of the Birch

Several years ago I wrote about the seasons in Newfoundland as defined “in the old days,” not by the calendar of Pope Gregory, but rather by the events that helped us survive another year in the Atlantic. The cod fishery, the seal hunt, the caplin scull; they were all part of the year as were the tides and the waning of the moon and other things not defined by words like equinox, but rather by the way the winds blew off the ocean. 

In my own narrower world there are likewise indicators that are beyond the pages that say “August, September, October, November.” This week I had a truck load of birch delivered to my back garden. It took half a day to stow it away in the little shed we have but it felt good. It was a nice fall day. 

Changing of the Seasons

The birch junks are stacked halfway to the ceiling and there is no longer the same amount of space in the shed. There is also now a nice “woody” smell to the place. That to me is my sign that winter is around the corner. There will still be some nice days and the sun may be warm for a few hours, but the “season of the birch” is upon us. The trees on the property have begun to shed their leaves. The grass doesn’t need to be mowed every second day and there is no longer a need to bring out the hose and the sprinkler. It is that most sacred of times; the changing of the seasons. 

Now I knew earlier from the Perseid meteor shower in August that the high point of summer had been reached and passed. It is past the time when bits of daylight hung in a warm evening sky until after 10 o’clock and the particularly lovely notion of “a beer in the garden” is a legitimate family exercise. Those days, like everything in the universe, don’t last. 

Divisions of Time

Now I have heard people here in Newfoundland say of summer that; “It is all over after Regatta Day”, but I reject that. This has been a wonderful July, August and even part of September. A few cool evenings though and closing the windows in the house in the early evening sent me up the shore of Conception Bay to the saw mill for a load of birch. 

When the wood arrived at my house it was a marker. It was a reminder that a time had past and another was arriving. There were things to be missed but things to be enjoyed in the new fall reality. There would be more trees to be cut and put away to dry for another year. There were things like a lawn mower and a little boat I have that would go into a hibernation. There were other things like a snow blower and a generator would emerge for a new season. They are all part of what are the real divisions of time.

NTV’s Jim Furlong can be reached by emailing: [email protected]

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