Friends of ours from Sydney, Australia visited us recently and, true to form for this miserable winter, it was 30 degrees with intermittent snow showers all day. And they loved it. In Sydney, they explained, it never gets cold enough to snow. In fact, during their warmest months (January and February), the temperature ranges from 66 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit. In the cool months (July being the coldest), the temperature ranges from 46 to 61. So their seasons aren’t differentiated by extreme temperature variations or cold-weather events like snowstorms. As a result, they said, in retrospect, they have a hard time distinguishing one year from another.
So, for example, if a noteworthy event in their lives were to occur on a day when the temperature was 64 degrees, they couldn’t later readily distinguish the season when it happened, because it could as easily have been a cool day in January or a warm day in July. They can’t automatically think back on the day, and recall, as we might, that we were wearing gloves and scarves and heavy leggings, and say “Oh yeah, that would have been last winter, when it was bitterly cold.”
Or remember that the event occurred, or that the happy (or sad) news arrived, just as they were finishing up raking leaves on a crisp fall day. Let’s be thankful for the clear mental marker this season gives us to define this point in our lives. Someday Maria and I may fondly recall this as the hard winter when Simon and Monica from Sydney first came to visit us at the shore, when we shared dinner and a lovely pinot noir at a deserted restaurant on the Asbury Park boardwalk, then went home, and played guitar, and sang until our fingers hurt, and our throats were raw.
Winter descends, plants die, birds flee, and the days grow short – sobering harbingers of mortality. But the dark days blossom into buds on trees, and longer twilights, and spring’s timeless cycle of renewal, followed by a riotous explosion of exuberant life, and activity in summer.
Which, dying too soon, morphs into wistful fall. The wheel is always turning, and with our starkly different seasons, we see tangible evidence of it every day. As my 50s recede into the past, each change of seasons seems a touch more poignant, colored by a greater sense that, indeed, we will each see only a finite number of them. Whether we curse that reality or embrace it, we cannot change it one whit. As this long winter draws to a close (whenever that finally occurs), I vote for embrace.