Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Season Changes

This week Jeph Jacques, he of the wonderful Questionable Content, found that he couldn’t draw his usual Thursday cartoon because of a deep and debilitating depression. He notes that this often happens to him at the changing of the seasons. I find myself wondering at this. I find season change deeply delightful.

The change from autumn to winter brings the anticipation of lighting the woodburner, drinking the raspberry vodka, the return of the stars (even in Sheffield), lights, decorations and christmas. From the end of December there’s the wonderful moment when the days start getting longer again and there’s the new chances provided by the new year.

By the beginning of spring I’ve usually had quite enough of those things, except the days drawing out. The first brave snowdrops, the expectation of warmer days, the promise of seedlings growing in the window, the return of colour to a grey world fill me with hope.

The transition from late spring to summer is probably my least favourite. I love late spring; fresh mornings, the darling buds of May, English asparagus, nettle soup, long warm days. 
Summer comes anyway. The garden (such as it is) is growing and I can move into sleeveless t-shirts and lose the quilt. And the lovely soft grey rains of summer are simply delicious. Not this year of course. Long term dreary deluge gets wearing after a while. And the swifts! Shrieking and diving through the deep canyons of our terrace-lined streets, amazingly distant crescents skimming the high sky.

The change of summer to autumn, though, is glorious, even as the swifts desert us for warmer climes. There’s a refreshing chill in the air. There’s a return to school feeling, the other new year, and I love it. English grown winter squash start to appear. The leaves begin to turn; a bounty of gaudy beauty. For me it feels that autumn begins after Sally’s birthday on 10th September. 

This year she was 21 and I begin to have to admit that my own transition from summer to autumn has pretty much gone. Over the last few years I’ve lost suppleness, strength and the elasticity in my skin seems to be fading. The things I’ve gained don’t seem to be that positive, mainly weight. I am loving my increasing invisibility however. Never having been backwards at coming forwards I can overcome young men’s inability to notice me if necessary, but there is something deeply peaceful about merging into the background. The hurly burly of the chaise lounge has been gone for some years now and I do occasionally look back with a certain wistfulness at the excitement, but only occasionally. I’m finding work increasingly rewarding, friendships of greater importance and I wake up far too early looking forward to each new day. Of course, getting out of bed takes longer and it takes a good few minutes for my feet and knees to loosen up. But then the lure of the early morning mug of tea encourages me to stumble down two Sheffield-steep flights of stairs to the kitchen. I’m currently mainly avoiding intimations of mortality and enjoying the days.

This week, leaning out of the Velux way before dawn I saw Orion above the horizon, faithfully accompanied by his hound, or at least I could see Sirius shining above the brightening horizon. Taurus and the Pleiades hung above him. There is not a glory of stars in Sheffield, and I miss that, but it makes the old favourite constellations easy to see. I guess the winter sky is so lovely to me because as an amateur astronomer of eleven it was the only one I got to know well. I was packed off to bed before the summer stars could be seen. It has the comfortable familiarity of many things known and loved in childhood. It’s been a gorgeously bright and blustery week. On my way to work this week I saw the local hot air balloon rising above the Botanical Gardens and some young guy, possibly not entirely sober, greeted me with the words, ‘Hiya darling. Have a blessed Wednesday!’ Of such things are happiness made. 

On a much, much darker note, this week the Hillsborough report was finally released. So many lives cut off horribly in the flower of their youth. So many lost so early, so many parents, lovers, friends with their lives blighted. I’ve always thought the lines, ‘They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.’  was poppycock; a brave attempt at comfort. The end result of growing old may be weariness but it is a privilege to have the opportunity. It would be churlish to whine.  

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