NATURE: In praise of four seasons

The story of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table is one of the most enduring legends of all time, lending itself to retelling in novels, poems, plays, poetry, paintings, and films. The doomed love triangle between King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, and Lancelot has been the focus of most of these versions. “Camelot,” a Broadway musical, is full of lively, lusty, romantic songs which capture the heart of the tale. One of my favorites is “If Ever I Would Leave You,” in which Lancelot gives a reason for every season why he can never leave Guinevere. For example,

“Or could I leave you running merrily through the snow

Or on a wintry evening when you catch the fire’s glow”

This song would never work if their love affair took place in, say, Southern California where winter doesn’t exist (and where everyone waxes rhapsodic about rain because they never get any. Which reminds me of another musical, “My Fair Lady,” and the song “The Rain In Spain Falls Mainly on the Plain.” But I digress).

All of this got me thinking how much I love living in a place with four seasons. I took it for granted most of my life, having lived mostly in the Northeast, until I moved to Texas for a (very long) year, feeling rather piqued that there was no winter and, horror of horrors, no spring.

I depend upon a gradual transition from hot to cool to cold to warm. It allows me to harbor fantasies the universe is a sane, predictable place. Feelings of hope and anticipation, very healthy emotions, are more frequent. The body too is healthier, having to adapt. And four seasons are a very good excuse to buy more clothes.

I don’t love the seasons equally—but who doesn’t love a reason to bitch and moan? I certainly do so I’ll start with my least favorite: summer.

Most people love it, see it as a time of freedom from school and heavy clothing, a time to bask in sunshine. I loved school, hated when it was over, prefer coats to flip-flops, and see melanoma in every sunny day. And I hate to sweat. And the endless shriek of insects drives me batty.

What I do love about summer are the long days and my garden burgeoning with lots of delicious veggies. But that’s about it.

I should hate winter as much as summer for its temperature extremes but I don’t. To me the sight of bare tree limbs against the stark sky, branches lined with icicles that sparkle in the sunlight, possess an unparalleled beauty. I am exhilarated walking on a cold day, my puffs of breath visible reminders I am alive. And what’s not to love about the season that features Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Valentine’s Day? Or that moment when you wake up and say almost reverently, “Look! It snowed!”

The long hours of darkness are my only complaint. But then I make some hot chocolate and curl up with a Russian novel as long a Siberian winter (thank you, Tolstoy), and all is well with the world.

What’s not to love about spring? The tracery of leaves on branches, the reappearance of bunnies, the fluorescent green of new grass. The curious paradox of nature looking so delicate as it pushes pushes pushes against the severity of winter. Spring is the season of persuasion. Hope and anticipation? Spring has it in spades, especially when I’m planning my vegetable garden (speaking of spades). And rain, of course, particularly waking up to its reassuring drum on the roof in the middle of the night.

I’ve saved the best for last—Autumn. The paradox of the season is one I truly appreciate. Nature begins to die in the fall and is never so vivid and alive. Its colors, its brisk temperatures, its crisp sounds of leaves cracking underfoot and the first of hearth fires. Halloween and Thanksgiving usher in the holiday season. Best of all, I can indulge a delicious feeling of melancholy, one readily dispelled by a walk in the woods, its floor strewn with leaves like bright coins.

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