N-N-1 Season Changes

As always, it’s been a pleasure to participate in this photo/writing challenge that we bloggers call N-N-1, where the first N stands for the number of participants, the second for the number of photos (they should be the same), and the 1 stands for one moment in time. This time around, there weren’t as many participants, but the entries, as you will see if you click to see the entire post below, were all poignant and thought provoking. I hope you’ll join us in this wonderful project next time around! And thank you, Natalie, from Wild Rivers Run South, for hosting it this time!

I have been honored to offer this most recent N-N-1. Thank you to everyone who participated. I am already looking forward to the next one. Princess Butter, whose blog is asplashofmylife.wordpress.com, has a short, but very sweet, entry for this N-N-1. It could be spring, summer, or winter, for all I care. Right now, it […]

via N-N-1 Season Changes — Wild Rivers Run South

Seasonal Transitions

I love the transition between summer and autumn. It’s my favorite time of year. A respite from the heat, but not yet miserably cold. A sense of enjoying the sun as the days perceptibly shorten. A slight frisson because there’s an ancestral fear of not surviving the winter. An appreciation of abundance while it lasts. A feeling of being on the brink of an adventure.

This started me thinking of other seasonal transitions.

Autumn to winter is a time to hunker down, muddle through, and try to stay warm. It’s also when you take a deep breath before diving headlong into the exhausting holiday season. It’s a time of conserving your resources. The horizons seem to shrink. My instinct is always to stay closer to home.

Winter to spring! Excitement! Birth! Beginnings! Flowers! Pent up energy just bursting to come out! The end to hibernation! The overuse of exclamation points!!!!!

Spring to summer, for me, is a little fraught. I love the lengthening days. I adore the vacations. It’s nice to have less bulky laundry to do. It feels good to be outside, enjoying all that nature has to offer. But it’s also freakin’ hot. And you have to mow. I don’t do hot and I’m a resentful mower.

Regardless, I am so grateful to be living in a climate of seasons again. You don’t really get spring or autumn in Florida, and I felt their absence keenly. I enjoy marking the passage of time. I love the variety, the anticipation, the change.

Life, man. Nature. It’s incredible.

Seasons

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Nature’s Personality

When I lived in Florida, I avoided nature at all costs. For me it was a place of spiders and snakes and mosquitoes and lightning strikes and fire ants and tornadoes and floods and, increasingly, forest fires. You couldn’t even jump into a pile of leaves for the scorpions. (How does one get through childhood without jumping into at least one leaf pile?)

Status quo was heat and humidity and sweat and sunburns. Mostly, I hid indoors, and went into full-blown panic if my air conditioning broke down. In fact, life was hopping from one air-conditioned oasis to the next. All my windows were painted shut. Having that contentious relationship with the great outdoors, I kind of had the mindset that I was surviving in spite of, rather than because of, nature.

It’s amazing how quickly my attitude changed when I moved to the Pacific Northwest. Here, I don’t even own an air conditioner. During the warmer months, my windows practically stay open. I have a new-found love for fresh air. During those same months, I have dinner on my back porch every evening. I’ve yet to encounter a mosquito, let alone anything else that might bite me. I don’t even own any bug spray.

Here, I get outdoors every chance I get. I’m starting to look at the rainy, grey winter months (which I confess I’ll never get used to), as the penance I have to pay for the exquisite gifts of spring, summer, and fall. This is the first time I’ve experienced seasons in 40 years. They’re magical.

Perhaps nature is more than one entity. I like its personality much better here than I did in Florida. Here, we’re friends, not enemies. And I didn’t realize how much my life lacked for not having that friendship until it finally came along.

Four_Seasons_1208_(A,B,C,D)_copy

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What I Love about Seattle, Washington

I’ve been living in this delightful city for 2 ½ years now, and I have never been happier. It sort of feels like I went to bed in Florida and I woke up in the Land of Reasonable People. Not a day goes by when I don’t look around in awe. How did I get so lucky?

Now, more than ever, I’m grateful for the liberal bubble in which I reside. In the current political climate, I think it’s the only reason that what little sanity I still possess remains intact. I love that my senators and my representative are all Democratic females. I love that we have a member of the socialist party (also female) on our city council. I love that our mayor is gay. And granted, it was a federal judge who ruled against Trump’s travel ban, but that judge was located right here in Seattle. I couldn’t be more proud.

The City of Seattle also just divested itself from Wells Fargo Bank due to its involvement in the Dakota Access Pipeline. Integrity in politics. How refreshing. (Not that we always get it right. For example, the homeless situation here is abysmal, and there’s absolutely no excuse for it. But it’s a start.)

We’re also proud to be a sanctuary city. Immigrants are welcome here. Contrary to supposedly popular belief, that makes me feel safer. I don’t like the idea of people being snatched from their homes. That happens a lot more frequently in this country than any terrorist attack.

I love the fact that individuality is celebrated here. It means that creativity thrives. Because of that, you can experience a wide variety of art, music, culture, and food in this fair city.

Oddly enough, I’m glad that we have horrible weather in the winter. It makes me appreciate the rest of the year that much more. I spend a lot more time outdoors here than I ever did in Florida.

I love that no one here needs air conditioning (yet). I love the parks and the flowers and the diversity of the landscape. I want to explore this city and this state a lot more. I love that every neighborhood has its own personality.

I love that the environment is taken so seriously here. If you don’t recycle, you can practically cause a riot. And there are so many outlets for environmental activism.

I love that this is the most literate city in the country. I love that the library parking lots are always packed with cars. I love that people enjoy talking about books.

I don’t smoke pot, but I love that it’s legal here. I don’t drink coffee, but I love that it’s celebrated here, and I love hanging out in coffee shops. I am musically inept, but I love that you can’t sling a dead cat without hitting a musician. This is the land of Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain, after all.

Now, if you want to talk about horrible traffic, out of control growth, and the outrageous cost of living… well, that’s a topic for another post.

seattle

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O’Dark Thirty

I’ve been in Seattle for two years now, and I’d like to think I’m adapting well. But as Autumn establishes itself, I start to feel as if I’m in a foreign country. I suspect that will always be the case.

Not since I lived in the Netherlands have I experienced such extreme changes in daylight from one season to the next. Here in the summer, you get about 16 hours of daylight, and in the winter you get about 8 ½ hours. Back in Florida there was only a 4 hour sunlight difference from summer to winter, and for the most part it remained miserably hot, so you tried to avoid the sun anyway.

I am constantly disconcerted by the winters here, when it’s pitch black by 5 p.m. To me, darkness means it’s later in the evening.  So why am I not tired? “Oh… it’s not even dinner time yet.”

And in the summer, I constantly think I’ve overslept when I hear the birds chirping and see bright light at 5 a.m. Whose brilliant idea was that? What’s wrong with you people???

Too, it feels like I’m working a completely different schedule when I come to and/or leave work in the dark when this was not the case a few short weeks ago.

The overall vibe here is very different from season to season. In the winter, people seem to get subdued. There’s a lot more silence and a lot less socializing. People seem to hibernate. The energy in this city is a lot lower at this time of year.

I have to admit, though, it makes me much more aware of the passage of time. It also makes me more appreciative of the sunlight when I actually see it, and the flowers that bloom and the vegetables that grow. I used to take those things for granted. Never again.

And Autumn has always been my favorite time of year. That crisp crackle in the air gives me a burst of energy that seems to elude the average Seattleite. I love the colors that nature puts forth, like the last hurrah before a colorless winter.

Still, just when I think I’ve gotten used to this place, another month rolls around, with a different feel, and it’s like I’m back to square one. I can well imagine what it would be like to live in Alaska, with its days of darkness. I can imagine it, but I sure wouldn’t want to live through it. Everything is relative.

winter-darkness

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Happy Winter!

The term “solstice” always sets off a slight frisson in me. It evokes ancient rites and rituals, the customs of people we barely remember and are hard-pressed to comprehend. No matter what your spiritual beliefs or lack thereof, it’s hard to ignore the passage of time as indicated by the sun, our main purveyor of life.

Today marks the winter solstice, the longest night and the shortest day of the year. On this day I tend to entertain an irrational fear that the sun may decide not to come back to us after all. That would spell disaster. Come back sun! Please come back!

There is ample evidence that ancient peoples took this day very seriously as well.

The Romans celebrated Saturnalia, and during this time all societal norms and conventions were sidelined. People ran wild. Masters served their slaves. I love the thought of that on so many levels.

Even in modern times, Druids gather at Stonehenge, and the sunrise lines up perfectly with the principle arch. Meanwhile, in Chaco Canyon, thousands of miles away, two daggers of sunlight will exactly bracket a spiral that was etched on a stone wall on Fajada Butte by some long-forgotten hand. (Sadly the average person will never see this again, as it’s protected from tourism for fear the rocks will shift and destroy the phenomena.)

In many parts of the world, farmers chose this day to slaughter their livestock so as not to have to feed them through the long, dark winter.

In Scandanavia, this was the time to burn the yule log, while on the other side of the world, the Mayans engaged in the flying pole dance, and the Incas were honoring the sun god.

The winter solstice is a day of death and fear and celebration and renewed hope. It is the official start of the winter season. Be that as it may, I was already over this cold, raw weather a month ago. Wishing you the fortitude to make it ‘til spring!

Chaco Dagger
This beautiful light pattern in Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon only shows itself at winter solstice.

Beauty in the Gray

It’s another rainy Seattle day. Just as it was yesterday. And the day before. And the day before that. You don’t realize how much you thrive on sunlight until it’s taken from you.

I’ve only lived in the Pacific Northwest for a little over a year, but I’m already sensing a pattern. This time of the year, it would be quite easy to burrow beneath a heavy woolen blanket of gloom. Hibernate until Spring.

“How do you stand it, year after year?” I asked a friend.

“You have to find the beauty in the gray,” he said.

And it may take some effort, but there is beauty in it. For one thing, because it’s so gray, when you see other colors they seem unbelievably vivid. Even the red of a stop sign becomes beautiful.

You also get the feeling from all this rain that everything is cleaner, and greener, and thriving. Life, nature, is all around you. Even in this big city, you feel as though the air you are breathing is somehow better for you.

Also, the fact that it’s raw and wet outside gives you an excellent excuse to snuggle up with someone. (Yeah, right. As if I need an excuse.)

And just as other colors become vivid, other seasons become vivid as well. Summer here is glorious. You find it impossible to wipe the smile off your face. You appreciate everything so much more because you know that you’ll only have it for so long. You take nothing for granted.

Maybe we need to look at life, in general, this way. You only get so much of it. Savor it. If that’s the lesson in the gray, then it’s a true gift, indeed.

See what I mean about vivid colors? [Image credit: dazzlingplaces.com]
See what I mean about vivid colors?
[Image credit: dazzlingplaces.com]