The end of summer always feels to me like a small death. Nature will sleep again, very soon.
The season we ache for, as northern people, the season that brings us crops and garden produce, flowers and lawns, the season that offers us heat and sun and long days will soon be wrapped in chilly arms and snowy blankets.
That’s partly why I try to take some holidays at the end of August, in the attempt, perhaps, to drag out the season, right to its end. It’s denial, absolutely.
It’s also blueberries. This year, in the central northwest part of the province, they were not plentiful, and they seem to have come early. There were certainly enough for blueberry pancakes — easily one of my top 10 favourite foods — but the freezer will have just one or two lonely little bags contributed to it.
It’s also the quiet. July, on the lake we frequent, is often insane: hundreds of people, dozens of boats dragging screaming children, snapping fireworks in the deep night. As August wears on, the people slowly drift home. Every day is quieter, more peaceful, cooler in the evenings and darker in the mornings.
It’s the poetry written by nature, when the boats and voices are silenced, listening to the loons and the lapping water, the scurrying squirrels, the breeze whispering in the aspen leaves. I love it. It’s the most beautiful place on Earth, to me, when it’s quiet.
It’s different every day. We’ve had wind and cloud and heat and rain. This morning, there was a clear sky and not a breath of wind. The lake was dead calm, the only boat on the water a canoe piloted by my husband, who came home triumphantly bearing a fish. The fish are delicious, swimming as they do in an icy lake that runs to fifty feet deep.
It’s also getting on the Northern Meadows golf course at 10 a.m. with no one ahead of us, and no one behind us. We’re nearly alone out there sometimes (it is often very busy, but try a Monday morning a week before school starts. Golf heaven.)
To get there, we drive in the slanting sun by fields of slowly ripening grain, enormous “muffets” of hay that sprawl over miles and miles of land. This part of Saskatchewan, that mixes the farming of the northern grainbelt with the aquamarine lakes and the oxygen-giving boreal forest, never ceases to amaze me, and I’ve been coming here almost since birth. It’s the best of Saskatchewan, all together in a small geography.
Later, hot from the exercise, I enter the cold water, waves splashing my shins, then my thighs; gathering courage, I finally walk in, determinedly, up to my neck. And I swim, glorying in the fresh, clear water.
I ignore, quite easily, the news. Well, almost. There has been a horrific hurricane in Houston, Texas. Former cabinet minister Bill Boyd is in trouble (and rightly so). A young person has been shot; terrible. Not much else enters my consciousness. There are diamonds sparkling on the lake.
We are almost at the end. Soon, we will pack up and say goodbye, and there will actually be tears in my eyes.
But when we get home, there will be ripe tomatoes in the garden, limp flowers drooping their blooms in their planters, yellow leaves starting to fall. We will pass swaths of crops in the fields. It’s harvest time. I’m trying not to think about what comes next, as I absorb these last halcyon days of a hot Saskatchewan summer.
Yet I do. And I know I would never appreciate the churning life of summer so much, if it were not for the bite of winter.
And I think, why would I, how could I ever leave this beautiful place? I would forever dream of bright canola and blue flax flowers, of green pines and blue lakes, of bright sun and changeable skies, of wild berries and fresh fish.
If it’s summer, I will always be in Saskatchewan.
This article originally appeared in the Saskatoon Express.