At about this time of year the same thought once again re-surfaces as the baseball season finally concludes and the days grow shorter: there will be no seasons of note here. The temperatures will moderate slightly, and for a few weeks in December the trees will lose their leaves (only to be replaced a scant month later). But there will be nothing dramatic and nothing required in terms of household preparations. Our electric bill will be lower and the gas bill will be higher.
Once again I will miss the poetry.
And don’t you always hear the same lament from people who move from lush hillsides to land without trees and with a preponderance of dirt and sand? Nights here in southern California are warm and bug-free, but it’s a little like the example of the last pup pulling a dog-sled: the view never changes.
Then again, I suppose it’s a matter of being old enough to appreciate what lies around you. When we were kids it had to do with perceived limitations in cold, winter months, requiring layers of clothes and few play areas. A ball field smothered in snow was disconcerting; a bike confined to the back of the garage declared that there would be months of waiting before you could sail away down the streets.
Later, much later, you have an awakening and see that the old ‘hood had genuine beauty, and that most of it had just “happened,” without so much as a hoe being drawn, a seed thrown, or a sprinkler system turned on.
A few years ago I was in upstate New York, making a stop in one of the small towns I had grown up in. I had left the house where I had been visiting and set out for New York City to rendezvous with a plane bound for California. I hit the road at about 6:30 in the morning, just in time to see mist rising from the river, even as the new sun struck hills that were crowded with tens of thousands of hardwood trees.
It was magnificent, and I slowed the car to prolong the experience. Traffic was light and as I moved eastward I was aware of the trees coming ever closer to the road, eventually creating green walls that soared fifty to seventy feet, with the hills now rolling away in the distance.
Excuse me, but there is nothing like that where I’ve lived for the past forty years. Not even close. Yet for a dozen years of my life, such could be seen from the back door. We played in the midst of that. The land – that land – had a palpable life cycle (as opposed to today being Tuesday, so tomorrow will certainly be Wednesday), and our lives moved in accordance with it.
It’s all still there, of course. It always will be there, the operative word being “there.” As opposed to being “here.”
The memories, the realities remain sweet.
Summers were marvelous, especially as a kid. There was nothing quite like the final day of school. You got a fresh crew cut, pulled on shorts and a T-shirt and “rode” out to the woods and hills behind our house to re-conquer the west, the Commies, or whoever else posed a threat to the civilization that we felt bound to protect. Three whole months where clocks did not exist. Fresh off the dictates of public education, I was always determined to make the most of the one-quarter of each year that was mostly mine to organize and enjoy. With my bike in good, working order, my own world was mine to explore and conquer.
But lurking in the near future, as August began to wane and a few trees had started to change color, was the fall, and nine months seated in a classroom. I never had much to do with autumn. I disliked the progressive darkening of the days and foliage that was no longer green. Now jackets were needed. Rain became incessant. The smell of new-mown grass disappeared. The windows of the house were closed most of the time. Organized days returned. Change was recognizable.
Winter in the northeast was best when all was white, worst when naked trees menaced barren grounds and the earth was hard. As kids we prayed for school closings that never came. Football on the corner lot was over by the first week in November. A winter that would run almost five months, an exhausting affair, and experienced mostly indoors.
When spring finally showed its face in April, the wait had been on the verge of forever. Spring in earnest signaled the beginning of the end of the year, even more so than the calendar, with the approach of summer something of a reward for diligence exerted throughout the school year.
The point, certainly, is that life changed as the seasons changed. Without them you’re simply dealing with numbers.