We are now in the Brown Season.

This is good and bad.

The bad, is that we are in the north woods, but not the north-north woods, so the trees have leaves instead of needles, so the leaves fall. And the forests turn from gold and green and red to...brown. With puddles. And mud. And the underbrush has lost its leaves as well so it's like kind of a haze of brown when you try to peer through the woods. Add a nice grey rainy sky and you've got blech. Aint no deer to find, they migrated south to Miami Beach. Aint no bears to find, they crawled into their holes and shut the door. The only remnant of summer is the greenbriar, which never turns brown.

Now, the good news is that this is the season of my friend Brown. Brown is a nice fellow. He has brown hair and a brown face and he wears a dark brown flannel shirt and brown cuorduroy pants and I never meet him anywhere but in the woods themselves. He steps out from behind a tree and says hey there friend. And I say, Brown, you're the one light in these woods. And he laughs and we go to gather firewood and we always find a heck of a lot more good dry stuff than I could find on my own, and we have a nice campfire and we talk about the coming winter. I try to explain to Brown that there are places where the seasons never change, and it's always sunny and warm. Brown doesn't get it, because "sunny and warm" for him is like sunrise for vampires. It's like telling someone that there are people who can live in the thin atmosphere of Mars.

We talk about the coming winter. Brown complains that January is shut out for him more often than not, these days, because of those weird warm days in the middle. I tell him things will get better. Maybe I'm lying to him. I'd like to think I'm not. But if I told him the full truth I don't know what he would do.

We talk about the darkness and the cold of the coming winter. Brown doesn't really understand why people string up so many lights in December. Not on an emotional level. He likes the cold, and he likes the dark, for the dark is full of stars. I don't think Brown actually sleeps; he just stands on the hillside and stares up at the sky.

I always ask Brown why he doesn't head north to a place where it's always cold and snowy. And he always says, what fun would that be. And I say, do you stay here just for me. And he laughs and says no, not only for companionship; he likes the brown woods most of all, and he thinks that pine trees are cheating by being green all winter. Brown likes the brown woods most of all, the empty woods, the hush and the mist before the world becomes shining white in the sunlight. This is the season when the pure shape of the land is revealed. Stripped of its veil of green leaves and without its thick cloak of snow, you can stare up at the hills and see their real contours through the bare branches. 

This is the Brown season. He's a quiet fellow. Doesn't make fun of a one of the friends I know. Doesn't play favorites with the pretty people or scorn the ugly ones. My friends look forward to Brown season for the chance to relax among someone who they know harbors no ulterior judgments towards them. I've been getting more of them to come to the campfires. We tell jokes and sing songs these days. Not so much of me and Brown talking about the winter anymore.

On one of these times, I linger around the fire long after my friends have departed to the town. And Brown tells me that he does know what's going on. That winter is diminishing. I try to tell him otherwise, but he tells me not to lie to him anymore, because he's not stupid. He says that I won't lose him, not completely. But he will be diminished. A small thing, like a gnarled gnome. And mean, and greedy. He's been through it a few times before. He survived. I tell him, maybe nothing will survive, this time, not even you. And he gives me a funny look, and says that I give life itself much too little credit. He says that spring always follows winter, though the world look cold and dead for so many months. And I say, I and my people may not survive. And he gives me a sad look, and says there's nothing he can do about that, but to give some comfort in hard times.

It's enough, this time of year, when everything else seems empty.

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