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Winter is coming. By 5:00 as I drive home from work the sky is not just dusky, but fully black. I grip the steering wheel and scan the ditches anxiously for the telltale reflections of peering deer. I switch my brights on and contemplate what to do with my seemingly long, obscure evening when a pale yellow disc peaks over the naked treetops. Alone in the car, I gasp audibly and murmur that it must be the “supermoon” my dad had spoken about. He’s enthusiastic about celestial phenomena, and I usually just let him report them to me via email. “This moon is really amazing, though,” I continue to mutter aloud. Indeed, it really is huge. The giant cheese round retreats behind the trees, and I crane my neck to catch another glimpse as I slow the car. Then, I do something I don’t normally do. I pull over and climb out to try to do this sky justice with my iPhone camera, to little success. Even though my camera has failed me, I have succeeded at slowing down, taking notice.
I do enjoy a full schedule, and five evenings a week are scheduled to be so dark, so running with my dog Riga is out. When my friend Amy proposes a weeknight jazz and hip hop dance class for adults at the Northern Door Program Center, I immediately agree. I have no formal dance training, but a few ballroom dancing lessons over the summer left me eager for more. I join the class and show up to the first session. I sit in a circle with eight other women of various ages, and we introduce ourselves. I am happily not the only one without experience. No one else in the class has a background in dance, and we all seem to be there for the same reason: to move and be social through the long, dark days of winter. Amy shows us how to isolate our shoulders, ribs, and hips, and, awkwardly, we imitate. Despite our lack of technique, we pick up the routine, and before long we’re chasséing across the floor like deer. Our attempts at Amy’s grace and sass leave us sweaty and mentally piqued. We’ve learned together and laughed together. Everyone vows to practice and return for the second class.
Late fall weekends in Door County can seem unadventurous. Boats disappear from the harbors, and my favorite ice cream parlor closes its doors for the season. Happily, this late fall season has been unseasonably warm, so Tim’s and my weekends are still highlighted by hikes in our favorite parks and land trusts. Odd weather also brings moist conditions and strange mist which hovers in a smoky canopy over the beach at Newport State Park. Heavy rainfall in September and October caused a dampness in the woods that holds extra smells, enticing Riga to keep her nose to the ground. Like Riga, I too have my nose to the ground, amazed at the growth of all kinds of fungi, which hide in plain sight as we pick our way through the woods. Once I notice them, the mushrooms are everywhere, all sizes shapes and colors, most I have never seen before. Though completely unqualified to gather them, I am enamored of the idea of foraging, so I content myself with pictures, vowing to identify them later.
After a long hike, an evening at home is in order, and Tim and I invite friends to distract us. I prepare two curry dishes for supper, knowing their spicy heat will warm all of us to the core. Friends arrive bearing local cider, which pairs nicely with a lamb meatball curry. Seven people crowd around our tiny dining room table meant for four. Thankfully, everyone enjoys curry, and the meal is a success. Tim builds us a fire in our fire pit so we can make s’mores. We not-so-expertly char most of the marshmallows, but the s’mores are just as delicious as I remember from camp days. Conversation lasts far beyond the last Hershey bar. Sipping brews and stoking the fire, we eventually turn our gazes upward and notice the deep purple sequin-studded dome above us.