“I love summer.” she said. “They take out the bean bags and put them on the grass where you can lie down and hang out. We should do that sometime.”
We were having lunch on what seemed to be a rare day of lots of sunshine and little wind (spring wasn’t living up to its name this year, what with 3 Antarctica-powered storms in the last 6 weeks giving me plenty of opportunities to post to Facebook that “Winter is coming…”) and from where we sat we could see the St John’s bar - the place she was talking about - where they set out bean bags on a large patch of grass beside the building, and other people just sitting on them, enjoying their lunch, the sun, and the company.
I thought to myself that I could enjoy that similar kind of moment - a care-free lunchtime between periods of work, good food in my stomach, a beautiful girl beside me - and as my imagination started piecing together that scene, I found that the last thing to enter it was the sun.
I can understand why so many people enjoy the summer: being able to spend time outdoors, getting together with friends over a barbecue, staying up late to where the good conversation seems to live, and so on. To them, it boils down to: getting together, doing things, and having fun doing them; and as someone who was born into a tropical country and whose physiology is built to handle heat, humidity, and ultraviolet radiation (I don’t usually get sunburnt - my skin just gets darker to fend off sunlight), I should be amongst that crowd.
Yet, whenever I rank the seasons, summer is the first season I pick…
…to be the one I like the least.
No, I don’t hate summer, it’s just that the other seasons hold so much more for me to enjoy than summer ever did.
Winter is my favourite season. When winter is around, it brings with it the prospect of skiing and rolling around in the snow, which is what makes up most of the reasons for why I like winter.
I love the sound of the crunch of fresh morning powder underneath my boots and skis as I traverse the slopes. There’s a kind of other-worldly loneliness to being that first person to step or ski on a surface constructed by Mother Nature while you slept - it’s the closest I ever feel to being an explorer - and it always puts me in that deep contemplative mood that I enjoy but which never happens in my day-to-day life.
I love the softness of the snow and how it feels like an always-on always-there safety net for when I mess-up skiing and fall over (which I eventually do as the day wears on and fatigue sets in and my knees suddenly stop listening to what I tell them). There’s a certain kind of comfort in knowing that, whatever I do, it’s always there to catch me.
And I love how snow to me feels like a playful and calming element - it makes me want to slide around in it, make snowmen, snow angels, then just lie there and listen to the only things that I can hear on a snowy mountain: the wind and my thoughts - and I always feel right at home when snowy white fields are taking up a good chunk of my field of vision.
(I know I write the above as a person who doesn’t get snow dumped on them for 6 months of the year. If I’m lucky, I’ll get a week in the year when I get to see and feel snow, so I think that rarity is why it holds such an appeal with me.)
Winter also brings with it a hazy quality to the air, when colder ice particles start floating around and cause light to blur just a little. As someone who is short-sighted, the blurring effect is compounded by my myopia, and it makes the world feel like I’m looking at it through a soft lens. It’s a bit odd, but the word I use to describe this effect is ‘warm’. Everything is given a soft and warming quality through the ice in the air.
When I was growing-up in the suburbs, this hazy air made for some spectacular light shows. There was this deciduous tree on the walk to school, and because in winter the sun travels a much lower path across the sky, there was this point in my walk where I would see the sun through the twigs and branches of this tree and it would create some spectacular crepuscular rays. There’s none of that in the city, but at night time there are some streets where I can see down them for miles, and the street lights and traffic lights all fill my vision with wonderfully soft and warm coloured light.
I also love the cold mornings when I leave the apartment and can see my breath in the air. When I exhale out my mouth and can see steam, then a smile always crosses my lips and I know I’m having a good day.
And shared across all seasons, but much more prevalent in winter, are the rainy days. There’s something about being caught in the rain that just makes me happy. I wonder if there’s a bit of a schadenfreude element to it, because much of my rainy-day happiness seems to stem from seeing how miserable other people are when it’s raining: everyone else is always trying to get away from it, to hide from it, to rush through it to get to their destination; but they always get caught: sometimes slipping on the footpaths or cobblestones, sometimes discovering that the water has seeped through and is touching their skin (you can tell when that one happens by watching the changes in expression on someone’s face: first it’s surprise, then it’s cold realization, then it’s back to rainy-day misery).
Autumn comes next, mainly because it shares a few qualities with winter, as well as the anticipation of winter. It’s often tied with Spring, depending on the year, as sometimes winter lasts much longer and continues straight into spring.
Lastly, everyone else’s favourite season, summer, comes out last in my personal rankings. Summer is handicapped by the fact that it’s also hayfever season, and I’m one of those allergy sufferers. Many of the activities people like to do during summer are outside, at a time when Mother Nature changes her mind about how she feels about me and instead spends those months trying to kill me. I found it hard some years to really enjoy any outdoor summer activities as they required I took a metric bucketload of antihistamines beforehand just to make sure I could breathe without a steady stream of mucus flowing out of my nose.
And that’s how my seasons stack up.
Winter definitely ran into spring this year when I took this photo. It was my birthday, and Mother Nature was giving me a lovely birthday present: a cold rainy day. There was a lady to my left, hiding underneath the shelter at the street crossing, shivering at the cold and how woefully underprepared she was for the weather. It also didn’t take much for me to imagine that, somewhere in the city, there is a rubbish bin with a broken umbrella hastily shoved into it, because someone has made the rookie mistake of underestimating the city’s winds.
Every year I wish for the same thing on my birthday: snow. I never get it of course - being in the Southern Hemisphere and having a birthday in October kind of makes snow a statistical impossibility. It got kinda close a few years back (snow down to sea level at the end of August), but like the child who keeps asking far too much out of Santa Claus, I keep hoping that one day, it’ll snow on my birthday.
“What do you think?” she asks.
“Huh?” I reply, being shaken out of my winter reverie and brought back into the present.
“You, me, bean bags, this summer?” she asks again with a tilt of her head towards the field of happy lazing people on the bean bags across the way.
“Oh, sure.” I say.
You, me, bean bags… maybe not so much of the summer. I think. I didn’t wish it had to be summer to be able to spend time with you. I wish it could just be you, me, and the rest is just a detail.
Of course, I never say what I’m thinking, and so file the thought away with everything else I’ve never said.