March is speeding to its end. In Florida one cannot usually exerience the “in like a lion, out like a lamb” effect. I can say that I miss the seasons in all their varigated harshness and unpredictability — and langorous summer days or colorful autumnal glory and moods of mortality and early gloaming, or snowy, icy midwinter beauty and chilled, sparkling distances and warm isolation. I miss the degree to which climate invests life’s passages with their own character. I recall, too, how so often the anticipation and longing for spring and her flowers goes unrequited when winter seems to go seemlessly into summer and springs temperate, moderate interval is blighted by cooler than normal temperatures — or rain. I recall serial Junes in which rain seemed constant, only to end in July’s dank or scorching discomfort. Then, all too soon, the earth’s rotaton was plunging us back into fall.
But, seasons are life. And life often feels more like life if there are those external passages we feel against our skin and within our souls.
Then there is Christmas — the Yuletide. Joy for many, torture for many. Emotions are at their apex or their nadir. Darkness, either cosseting and comforting or alienating and unbefriending. The colorful lights festoon the world — and make January all the darker and colder.
Summer in New England can offer variations unlike anything anyone will ever experience in Florida or the southeast or subtropics, at least so far as I know and based on my own long exposure to the subtropical seasons. In New England, it can be blisteringly hot and humid one day, up into the nineties, then, the next day, be cool and dry. I recall mid-Julys that felt, at least a little, more like a green October.
Haven’t all of us experienced a curious sense of sweet disorientation in those periods of the fall known as Indian Summer? For one thing, they occur only periodically. Sometimes, chilly autumn descends and never looks back. We have felt resignedly the natural shift into cool temperatures, said goodbye to summer, braced ourselves for the coming winter — then, suddenly, though the golden leaves lie redolently all around us and the branches have become partially bare — it is summer again and the dry calm or the warm breezes can plungeus unexpectedly into a confused, complex moods of longing — and, longing for what? Not, I would suggest, for the lost summer but for all that has happened in our lives, all hopes, all fears. (And it is sad to know that this name we gave to this lingering breath of summer has its origin, at least from what I read, in Native American raids of settlers’ farms when good weather continued into fall. It makes it, then a very insensitive, politically incorrect term. And even more insensitive term, still used apparently, in England, is Old Wives’ Summer . Frankly I love the term Indian and am sorry the current long winter of grievance and retribution that has descended on us has staged a raid on terms that have long lain neutered and harmless. But so it goes.)
I recall that the early days of November have through the years been a time of sudden temperate days, even a little humid. I recall a terrible, accidental death of a child in my neighborhood one November 9. And I recall that the early darkness was warm. And every early November day of damp, dark warmth takes me back to that evening I’d prefer to forget.
And, living in Florida, where the seasons are subtle though seemingly seamless and the emotions and temperments the weather evokes and the sense sometimes of being in a room where the lights are never out, like a prison cell and the topography is flat and the vegitation vivid or scrubby and rough and the earth sandy and the weather always threatening to be electric and violent and destructive but also simply “nice” and inviting to half the nation half the year — here I’m inclined to write a whole long, different meditaton.
But now I am thinking of the metalic reality of northern climes where there has been both horrors and delights and, in the case of New England, remarkably mostly mild weather. ( Perhaps winter and snow-lovers are sorrowing). But my brothers lie aging and ill up there, and my grand nephew is several months gone at only twenty, and the mourning is unrelenting.
And as I move toward the end of this sponteneous Friday morning meditation, I go looking for something by the late Hartford insurance executive who also enjoys the reputation of being one of our nation’s greatest poets, though I might find Robert Frost more accessible, especially on the subject of weather. But I’ve taken down, instead, Wallace Stevens who, the short poem, “Of Mere Being”, writes,
The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze distance,
A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.
You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy,
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.
The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowlyi in the branches.
The bird’s fire-fangled feathers dangle down.
(end of poem)
Yes, I’ll conclude saying, it is not the reason that makes us…whatever.
Perhaps, it is –the season.
It is the end of March.
Yes, I’ll end here, though, of course, I could write on endlessly –through season after season comes,and goes.
But I’ll end.