Thanksgiving comes in late November in the U.S. In Canada Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October. Here on the shore of McLeod Bay we are thankful today, for it is the first of December.
We are thankful that November has passed safely and without any close calls.
November is a month with a bad reputation around here. We consider it the most dangerous month of the year. It is a month filled with poor flying weather, unpredictable ice and water conditions, and a constant day-by-day watchfulness as we come and go. As years go by we try to come and go a lot less often than we once did. Maybe we are just getting wearier and less bullheaded. Maybe we are even getting, dare I say it, smarter?
November is a month of overflow on the river ice, of roaring southwesterly and northeasterly gales, of waves bashing and churning fresh pans of ice to smithereens, grinding the floes against the silt of the lake bottom until there is no clear drinking water for a week at a time. The wind generators pay for themselves in spades, day after day, as the batteries hum to capacity and electric lights can come on at a whim, morning after morning. At this season the solar panels lie virtually dormant, stymied by cloud and the low arc the sun makes on the days when it does show.
In 2007 November was marked at both its start and its end by some very close calls with our neighbours the barren land grizzlies. It was a dreadfully poor year for berries and the bears were feeling the pinch. I have only wrecked a plane once in my life, and that was in November, 2005, a mile north of home. We were lucky. We walked away, and the plane has logged 2,000 hours since. On an awful November day 20 years ago, we came much too close to drowning after falling through thin ice. Our mistake cost us heavily, and I cannot dwell on that one here. I have sweated a cold sweat flying along in the dark with a load of ice on wings, prop, and engine air intake, northbound for Yellowknife up the west shore of Great Slave Lake, forced low by weather, on wheel skis a hundred feet over churning whitecaps. Cold comfort. That too was in November.
So you can see why we are thankful to have November behind us, and why we are counting ourselves lucky. As December begins and we slide toward the solstice we are home safe and sound. The woodpile is still big enough, stacked and waiting for the days ahead. The inland lakes are all solid and the snow is easing the bumps and bashes of the dog trails, inch by fluffy inch.
November is not all doom and gloom. It has its moments, and the less ambitious one is, the more one can enjoy those. McLeod Bay has been keeping us guessing and has faltered a bit, but it is gradually freezing. We have our ice bets in, but now all of our guesses look to have been optimistic, and we will put new dates into the hat today, just to keep things interesting. Nothing late about freeze-up here so far, for the big lake. If we see Christmas with open water to the south, that will indeed be remarkable. I don’t think we will. One more round of deep cold, with a night of no wind, should see the deed done. That will be another mile marker in the year. We all look forward to that first smooth dogsled ride down the bay.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.