I was treated to this beautiful autumn scene of fallen, and falling, leaves on my way to work this morning. Unfortunately, it was about 26 freaking degrees and a bone-chilling arctic gale was blowing, too.
This illustrates the hard reality of our modern “seasons.” There is no fall anymore, not the kind that we remember — when the sky was clear and bright and dry, the temperatures were in the 50s, leaves crunched underfoot, and sweaters were the apparel of choice. There’s no spring, either. Just hot summer and cold winter, with about a week separating them on each end.
I woke up this morning, prepared to take my morning walk, looked out at our patio, and noticed it is pitch black outside — when only a few weeks ago, at this same time of day, I was walking accompanied by the rising sun. Thus was I gobsmacked with the reality that the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting longer.
We live each day so focused on the immediate demands of our lives that we often miss the gradual changes that are happening around us — until the physical cues provided by the world break through and make it clear. The relative snugness of clothing alerts us to weight gain or loss. Falling leaves tell us that September is only days away. And the ever-lengthening night reminds us that the seasons are changing whether we notice it or not.
I’m not ready for summer to end — it seems like it just got here! — but the darkness this morning tells me I’d better enjoy it while it lasts.
Of all seasons of the year, I think I hate the end of winter the most. It always brings the worst weather conditions of the year.
It would be nice to have cold weather and snow on the ground until the end of winter came abruptly and conclusively. In one day, the temperature would bounce from 20 to 55, all the snow would melt, and thereafter the thermometer would never go below 50.
Of course, that never happens. Instead, we get this interim period of slop and slush and ice filled water and treacherous footing and wet shoes. The snow melts, then we get freezing rain, then the mercury plunges again and everything freezes over. Winter drags on, and on, and you never know when it’s truly over.
The scientists took 400 people and tried to match their personalities to their birth season. They determined that people born in the summer are more likely to experience mood swings, people born in the winter are less likely to be irritable, people born during the fall months are less likely to be depressed, and people born in the spring are more likely to be relentlessly positive. Why might there be some significance to your birth season? The scientists say the seasons may affect the body’s production of certain mood-related substances, such as serotonin and dopamine.
Four hundred people seems like a pretty small sample to draw sweeping conclusions about a previously undiscovered relationship between birth season and mood, and if sampling is done incorrectly it’s easy to mistake correlation for causation. Having known people with birthdays throughout the year, I haven’t noticed any connection between birth date and bitchiness. In my family, all of the five kids were born in the spring and early summer, and our personality types vary pretty wildly, from sunny optimist to gloomy gus.
And how do you account for the undoubted impact of life lessons on personality? You could be a positive spring baby, but live for decades as a Cleveland sports fans and you’ll soon shed that cock-eyed optimist for relentless, crushing pessimism. Budapest scientists can’t possibly understand the well-known Cleveland sports effect on mood. If all of those summer babies grow up to be Browns fans, it’s bound to skew the results.
We were at a nice function tonight when my phone buzzed and I got another “alert”: frost warning tonight.
Huh? Frost warning? What the hell? It’s May 24, for God’s sake. It’s well past time for it to warm up, already.
Sure enough, when we left the party tonight, the temperature on the car thermometer was 45 degrees and falling, and you could feel a distinct autumnal chill in the air.
Why don’t we have spring anymore? You remember that delightful season, when low temperatures were in the upper 50s and high temperatures were in the mid-70s? I’m convinced that season no longer exists. We just move abruptly from winter to summer at some random point in April or May, so within a matter of a day or two you go from wearing a coat to wearing shorts.
Overnight the temperature plummeted, and it was in the 30s when Penny and I ventured out this morning for our walk. For the first time since early April, the barn coat and gloves were hauled out of the closet and donned against the brisk morning air.
Much as I love summer, I also love the changing seasons. As the temperatures slide from the Ss (60s/70s) to the Fs (40s/50s) to the Ts (20s/30s), the morning walk experience also changes in noticeable ways. Your breath comes out in visible puffs. Ghostly white clouds of water vapor billow from the storm water grates and hang in the sharp air. The light of the crescent moon shines on grass covered with a thin reflective layer of frost, and the Hunter, the Big Dipper, and their fellow stars seem brighter and clearer in the black sky. The layer of frost makes you walk with newfound care as you cross the slippery wooden plank walkway around the edge of the wispy steam-covered pond.
By the end of the walk your nose is cold, your cheeks are ruddy, and you are wide awake. The feelings are all very familiar, and very comforting. It’s grand to be alive on such a morning!
This morning was a milepost. After months where jeans and the Vassar hoodie were minimum requirements of the morning walk with Penny, today I was able to venture out quite comfortably in just shorts and a t-shirt.
I tend to measure the seasons not by the strict terms of the calendar, but in terms of standard clothing options. Who cares if, technically, it is still spring and will be until June 21? If it is warm enough at 5 a.m. to be outside in shorts, then that necessarily means we have moved into shorts weather, regardless of the tilt of the Earth’s axis or the definition of solstices.
And so the shockingly white, increasingly hairless legs come out of hibernation and are exposed to the eyes of an appalled world, and the summer-long quest for some kind of tan begins.