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We’re in the season for remembering

Maybe it’s the threat (or promise) of snow on the ground and the muffled silence it brings.

Sharon Cox 22.jpg
Sharon Cox
Contributed / University of Jamestown
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When families gather during winter holidays after extended periods apart, you can be sure there will be photograph albums, pictures on the cellphone, and if you’re lucky to still have them around, some surprising conversations from the “old folks.”

The season of autumn into winter has always been a time for remembering. It’s almost like pulling out the fluffiest blankets and bedding and snuggling into winter under the warmest, most comforting hugs imaginable. Maybe it’s the threat (or promise) of snow on the ground and the muffled silence it brings. Spending adolescent and teen years in the Deep South, we missed the snow our family experienced up north, and autumn always brought back early memories of that shushed quietness and crunchy steps tied to being a kid in snow country.

In an Oct. 26 issue of The Atlanta Journal, a column by former Georgia Gov.r Zell Miller caught my eye. It was about autumn in the South and how the crunch of fallen leaves to him as a boy, meant almost the same signal for winter’s “hibernation,” as the first snow does for North Dakotans.

Miller was a lifelong resident of the South (except for a period when he was in the Marines). He discussed the tapestry of colors seen in late October through Thanksgiving in the North Georgia mountains. True, the colors there are spectacular. The evergreen pine trees set off deep red maples and various oak, sassafras and catalpa trees. Bright yellows that we have here are not as prevalent there, with the oaks sometimes holding their brown leaves through winter. Poplars and the occasional persimmon tree contributed yellows and oranges, but mostly it was a warm red tone, much like the soil in which they grew.

When autumn comes here, our color palette is every bit as lovely, if not more so. We can include the one color not always included in the Southern array: blue. Here, we have that azure blue sky that contrasts with the golds, yellows, oranges and reds of fallen leaves. Plus, in addition to the rich deep greens of pine trees, we have silver needles of spruce to add to the spectrum. Our range of colors is more subtle, less “shocking,” but in many ways more reminiscent of those soft, fluffy blankets with pile deep enough to brush.

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Miller’s piece was inspirational, true. Mostly, it reminds me of why North Dakota was the choice made where there were four seasons instead of two. Summers in North Dakota are preferable to just about every other place I’ve lived. I’ve always said that I’d take our coldest day in February here, over the middle of August in the south ... any day.

That may be why snowbirds migrate to Arizona over winter, but for the die-hard northerner, there’s no need to escape the cold. It brings us clean air to breathe and one of the most beautiful landscapes an artist can ask for as a subject for painting.

If anyone has an item for this column, please send it to Sharon Cox, PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559.

Sharon Cox retired in 2020 after 28 years at the University of Jamestown, including as department chair and professor of art.

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