The calendar says we turned a corner last week into autumn but you’d never know it here where we live without seasons. Seventy-two and sunny with no relief in sight. Another day without weather to speak of.
Each of the four seasons carries remnants of the previous and portends of the next. In his poem, Autumn, Keats likened the early days to Dionysus or Bacchus swollen still with summer and the juice of the vine only to yield to Apollo preparing cerebrally for the chill of winter.
Here in Southern California September can be our hottest month, bee-loud glens (Yeats, not Keats) and increments of green outside our window. In a few weeks I’ll know the turning only when pumpkin ice cream shows up along with Halloween costumes and all things man-made orange.
What have we lost contravening Nature’s rhythms? Is it enough just to listen to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons? The barren landscape of a North American winter corresponds to our need for introversion; to be driven from external revelry and ripeness to experience the sting of deprivation and darkness. We can compensate as we do with Christmas lights and giftwrap or just stay quiet exploring our inscape. Napoleon would have been better advised to stay home with a good book instead of trudging across Russian steppes in the dead of winter. Had he read Shakespeare he would have recognized winter’s discontent.
Father, father…do we live in Poland or Russia? Now, my son, this land is Poland. Thank God, father, I couldn’t take another Russian winter.
In my New York years summer’s lease ended abruptly on Labor Day followed by no-nonsense school days, rules, theorems, axioms and all attention to be paid. I don’t suppose I’ll ever know whether to attribute this swerve of seasons to my youth or Eastern weather. I haven’t experienced it since.
The scene-shifts are more subtle in the Southland where we have to find resonance with whale-watching, budding camellia or jacaranda trees unleafing. The languor and excess of July can extend far into November. It’s an adjustment I’m happy to make. The image of a goddess sleeping in the fields watching a cider-press (Keats, not Yeats) is quite compelling.
There is a weather we carry within. Let it shine and let it cloud. We have our own equinox and solstice and everything in between. The calendar is only a prompt to remind us.
I wish Keats' and Yeats' names rhymed, being poets, but they don’t, just as life doesn’t rhyme even on the equinox, being equal parts darkness and light. I was born on that other equinox. I’m told that puts me on the cusp between Aries the Ram and Pisces the fish. Maybe I’m the amphibian who left water to grow four feet and say Bah. Or maybe all words rhyme compared to silence.