Day Four: Clara’s Request, Seasons
My friend Clara made a request for the 31 days of blogging: You could blog about how the change of season affects you internally.
I love the change of seasons and cannot fathom living someplace where everything is the same all year-long. No matter the time of year, familiar trees form a fluid latticework against and an ever-changing sky. I’ve lived enough years to recognize that I’ve stood in each season before, and I recognize the angles of the sky, the patterns of the sunlight, and the taste of transitions.
I take joy in the onset of fall when the languid summer days grow truncated by crisp mornings and early evenings. For a period in the late summer and early autumn, the earth seems confused about where it stands, even as it turns away from the sun. That tension might be disconcerting for some, but since autumn is my favorite season this time of year from late September to mid October reminds me of settling into school, of falling in love, of my first days of independence, of getting married, of enjoying the first trimester of my first pregnancy, of the onset of Halloween. Some of my best memories are in fields of pumpkins, whether I was in second grade or with my second-graders.
For me Halloween is the capstone of autumn, a time I enjoyed as a child and a time I enjoy with my children. I mourn nothing about the death of summer because I so eagerly embrace autumn and the way the light filters through curling leaves that rustle with the wind. The air tastes different in autumn, you can feel it on the roof of your mouth, an earthy taste that is not as cold as winter and not as dry as summer. Spring has a similar taste, but it is icier, dirtier than the gentle flavor of autumn air.
I do mourn the loss of autumn, when the leaves are covered by snow, peeking like dirty plastic bags through the brilliance of the cold white nothingness. The leaves that were once so shimmery in the autumn air form a moldy carpet and rot back into the earth. That darkness beneath the snow feels foreboding to me. I know this is necessary, autumn is a death onto itself, and so it too must pass.
We fill the space between autumn and winter with so much anticipation that it warms the heart, even as the air grows frigid around us. Winter was once my season of indifference. After Christmas passed, I had no love for winter, but I liked it better than summer. When I’m cold I can be warmed, but when I’m hot, I’m miserable. Winter is now a time of tension. It has all of the anticipation it ever had for holidays and family gatherings and time with the children in the glow of the holiday lights.
Yet, after Christmas, instead of an anticlimactic indifference, I feel a twisting darkness overtake me. So much of my loss has happened between December 30th and January 30th: my father’s death, my hopes for my life as a parent after Liam’s diagnosis. Very dark days fell in January and into February when we buried my father in the deep snow of the Black Hills. February, heart month, when Liam once spent a two-week roller coaster ride in the hospital and came off dizzy and the future uncertain. The depths of winter coincide with the depths of my soul and now I prefer summer to winter. I prefer the heat that reminds me I’m living to the chill that reminds me of death.
Spring was always my second-favorite season. I was born in the spring, and I loved Easter and the way the arc of the sun grew higher and came further North, like life was coming always toward me. That sense of renewal always entrenched itself as the ground grew firm and fertile after the final snows departed. Jim and both of our children were born in spring too. Spring was the time of my final trimester of both pregnancies, and there are spring days when I can remember the newness of motherhood.
Even though my early motherhood and the spring Liam turned three were saturated with trauma, those times were also tinges with hope and beauty. When I am outdoors in the spring, I can reconnect with that beauty. I am always sad to see the gentleness of spring fade into summer, even as I love the ever present light that fills the last days of spring and calls summer into being.
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with summer. I’m not an “outside” person, and summer seems to demand that of all people. My skin is terribly sensitive and I have sensory integration issues, so heat and bugs and trickling sweat made summers miserable for me as a child. This tactile discomfort can still steal the joy of the outdoor season. As a child summer, meant leaving the structure of school, and I am a creature who craves structure. The freedom of summer frightened me then.
Now that I’m a parent I embrace the possibilities of summer with my family. I cherish the possibility of the longest days o the year. I love to watch my children in the backyard through my kitchen window as they play in the sun not fearing their freedom or the future.
Summer has become, strangely, a time when I can reflect safely on my life. Perhaps that’s just the serotonin that softens the blows of powerful memory. I don’t know, but I enjoy how summer brings me closer to my family and we are together more when school is out. I would hate to lose that time with them, though I know like everything in life it will be lost someday. Parenthood is also a season of my life, and invariably, the seasons always change.