My season sensor sputters as February and March in Phoenix send me signals of all four seasons: shall I savour the variety or let it drive me crazy?
My season sensor spins, trying to settle on a selection.
Some trees sport the distinctive green of new leaves. Spring, the sensor concludes happily.
Newly mown grass and purple alyssum scent the air. Summer, it says reasonably.
Dead leaves drift in the gutters and crunch underfoot. Fall, it opines judiciously.
Some trees are stark, bare silhouettes against the sky. Winter, it decides reluctantly.
Boy birds chase girl birds. Spring? Less conclusion now than conjecture. And around it goes.
Yup, it’s busted.
I never knew I had a season sensor until I was in my early twenties. Before a six-month assignment to Ottawa in 1975, I’d lived my whole life in Alberta. I didn’t think much about the seasons: they just happened, year after year, exactly as they always had, exactly as they should.
On that temporary sojourn in our nation’s capital, all was well through late spring and summer. Then September rolled around and with it came a vague unease. October brought distinct angst, as a late onset to autumn saw us celebrating Thanksgiving with green leaves on the trees. Green leaves in October were nice in theory, I guess, but when the angle of the light did not match the landscape that light was illuminating, it was just wrong wrong wrong. What a relief to get home to Alberta, where the season’s performance matched my subconscious expectations.
Now, almost 40 years later, my season sensor is sputtering again. Here in Phoenix for February and March, I find that this is no season with which I am familiar. Bougainvillea and snapdragons in full bloom don’t seem to go with trees still stripped bare for the winter.
But they clearly do go together in this part of the world, which is only 18 degrees latitude removed from the part I grew up in. That’s a difference representing just one-tenth of the world’s north/south range. Imagine the shock to my system were I to venture to a place where the number of daylight hours does not vary with the season, or to a place with just two seasons (rainy and dry), or, perhaps, to a place without meaningful seasons at all.
In the 1920s, my mother’s family spent some years in southern California. My grandfather’s health problems demanded a more hospitable environment than southern Alberta. Decades later, my grandmother still talked about driving up into the California mountains when the calendar said it was autumn. They went looking for something — anything — that would look like a change of seasons. I get it. They went looking for leaves that weren’t green in October, dagnab it.
So it isn’t just me — always a relief — but it is me. What shall I do with this drive to align experience and expectations? By always living where I can experience the seasons in the way I always have, I could refrain from agitating my subconscious. But after the winter most of Canada has just suffered through, and in many places is still suffering under, I don’t think so.
“Variety’s the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavour.”
Maybe this seasonal variety can add some flavour if I acknowledge that slight disquiet of confounded expectations, but then use it to enhance my appreciation of what I do experience.
Does the calendar say it’s winter, do the locals speak of it being spring, and does the thermometer hit 80 degrees Fahrenheit at four o’clock in the afternoon? Yes, yes, and yes. Well then, bring it on. It may not be right exactly, but it’s a wrong wrong wrong I think I can learn to live with, maybe even to savour.