Mi Sun is a top notch personal assistant. At exactly six thirty every morning she positions herself three inches from my face and meows the morning wake up call. Much gentler than the abrasive sound of a mechanical alarm it is a better way to start the day. Sometimes I am up earlier, wakened by one of the many trains that pass nearby. On these days Mi Sun is very careful to remind me when breakfast is to be served. We know the season of hibernation is approaching because we are now waiting longer for the sun to come up and breakfast is eaten when it is still dark outside.
My breakfast is transitioning from fruit and protein smoothies to warmer meals like omelets and breakfast burritos. The cats do not change what they eat but they are demanding more. Nature is telling them they need to start growing their winter coats, never mind my cats are indoor only and have the luxury of central heating. This is also the time I pull out my slow cookers and start making soups from the autumn harvest to fill the freezer I also put in my special order with farmer Frank.
The falling dark helps set the mood for Halloween but the cats don’t care. They are more interested in my bringing out the heavy Korean fuzzy blankets and the deep warm kitty beds that got put away for the long sunny days of summer. They have no interest in the fact the smoke alarm is unplugged from the ceiling, having exceeded it’s natural life by years, and not been replaced by the landlord. When I reported it I did mention I had bought two small ones, the battery only kind, and apparently the landlord thinks this gets him off the hook. The wired in model is no longer in production and a replacement will need a new mounting and connection. I suspect he does not want to pay electrician rates. It never worked properly anyway, routinely going off when I was in the shower but not triggering when the damper jammed in the fireplace or when a plastic spatula accidentally fell on a hot stove unit and sent up nasty, acrid smoke.
The falling dark also spurs me to bring out my oil lamps and candles. Not only do they serve as backup in a power failure but create a cozy ambiance on cold nights. But their use does make the smoke detectors essential. The cats could care less about that kind of ambiance; the kind they like comes from piling onto the futon with me as I read or work on the laptop. I have a nice pile of wood at the side of the house, much of which needs spitting, which will provide exercise now the garden is done. It too is backup against power failure, ensuring there will be heat and the ability to make hot food. Farmer Frank’s son welds old horse shoes into craft items, one of which is a large, sturdy stand to pace in the fire to support a pot or Dutch oven. I bought one after a discussion of how large and furry the caterpillars are this year. Long ago cast iron skillets with legs, known as iron spiders, were common when fireplace cooking was common, but they are no longer made. The stand will enable me to use my cast iron pots and pans in the fireplace more easily.
The cats get the benefit of all this preparation without doing much except offering cuddles when I am tired from all the work. The falling dark makes no difference to the cats,but it is a harbinger of falling temperatures. My futon is the real thing, meant for sleeping on the floor but I have the metal frame from my old roommate’s futon style sofa. This house is built on a concrete block foundation over a crawlspace. Once the season changes the floor is cold as ice, so I open up the frame and place the futon on it. Even though we have not needed the heat on yet, last night for the first time everyone was up on the futon with me except Milk and Skye, who were wrapped around each other in a cat bed on the chair right next to the futon.
In keeping with very ancient traditions, I have made sure there will be heat and warmth, and prepared a store of food from the harvest. I can light the darkness with my lamps and candles. The falling dark is no problem for cats and I am making sure it will be no problem for me. The Danish word hygge has no direct translation to English but describes a culture of warmth, enjoyment and social closeness which enables people to stay positive and avoid depression over the long dark of Scandinavian winters. The Inuit in the old days had a tradition of sitting under their blankets gathered together listening to a storyteller reciting long tales. These story telling sessions were forbidden once the light began to return. The common element is a positive social connection and an enjoyment of basic pleasures like good food and relaxation. I replace the storyteller with books, usable without electricity. A new coffee shop is due to open and I will make it a point to go there periodically. I can now look forward to the coming season as a time of restoration, celebration and catching upon things I enjoy, like reading and creative projects. Falling dark will be no problem for cats or for me.