Wednesday, October 06, 2004

A note on the seasons

In Australia the seasonal changes have been decreed by bureaucrats. Forget your equinoxes & solstices, Spring starts on the 1st of September, Summer on the 1st of December.

The Aboriginal people, the traditional owners of Australia, with their special affinity to the land, have a different set of guidelines. They allow sometimes two, sometimes six seasons, depending upon what part of the continent they are in & what the weather is actually doing. These can be as simplistic as wet / dry; cognisant of subtle changes – a distinct season can be that approximately two-week period of time between a specific tree coming into flower or an insect emerging & the beginning of the next season that it presages; can be of varying lengths; may be missed out altogether in a particular year.

What has sparked this line of thought is an email from Richard Lopez in California in which he remarks that "fall has arrived, the leaves on the trees are turning yellow and orange (tho many are still stubbornly green) and falling." Here it is the second month of "Spring", the temperature yesterday was 35° – that's Celsius; in Fahrenheit 95° - & the leaves are falling. It's brought about by the shock of heat & lack of water. & though there are some yellow & orange leaves amongst them they have a hard brittle quality. When the wind blows they crackle.

I am a romantic when it comes to the seasons, espcially autumn. I love the Nat King Cole interpretation of the Jacques Prévert poem Les Feuilles Mortes. I love Vernon Duke's ballad Autumn in New York. I loved the way autumn came in New Zealand & changed the leaves of the imported English trees to orange & yellow & red. I loved Spring when the flowers came through, the cold Winter, the not too hot Summer.

When I first came to Australia I missed the green of New Zealand; only in south-east Australia could I seem to find it. It took me almost a decade to come to terms with the Australian landscape, with the brownness prevalent in so much of it. But now I appreciate the subtleties of it, its unforgivingness, the desolation of so much of it, the flora & especially the fauna.

Pressed, I would probably admit that I like it. Hard-pressed, I would probably have to admit some love.

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