Living as I do on the banks of the Seine, I have a bit better appreciation of the turns of the seasons than just being aware of having to plug the car in or launder my shorts.
There’s an area of tangled river bottomland across the back alley to the north, so sometimes I also get a more direct onslaught of the nasty weather.
January begins it, of course. Everything hard and bitter, reduced to the most basic ways of survival. Any living thing that can be seem is in an unalterable routine of finding food and shelter. The skiers are out on the river but they retire to warm rooms while the animals and the birds huddle up together at night in sheltered places. The snow softens the outlines but doesn’t conceal the implacable truth.
But not even mighty winter can hold dominion forever. Stealthily the snow recedes and the ice softens; suddenly there are a few geese around and if you look closely the buds of the trees are changing colour.
Life carefully reappears, because a sudden spasm of cold might happen; the oaks are the wisest and let everything else green up before they commit themselves. Mourning-cloak butterflies are the most visible of the insects to return but quite soon the summer birds have settled in and we can set about our gardens as they begin their own crops.
And so summer. We gladly let pale limbs into the sunlight. Cleaning up the winter’s debris and brightening our surroundings go hand-in-hand with exploiting our too-brief time in the sun.
Down by the Seine are all the manifestations of life and pleasure: sometimes several goose families will leave all their progeny — 30 or 40 goslings — with a couple of responsible adults while the parents have a few hours to themselves; for me, there are damselflies to watch: some are ravishing emerald green or cobalt blue with black eye-patterned wings.
And now — the year has shed all its extravagance in preparation for the times to come. All the splendid colours have by now faded to brown or yellow, except for a few particularly hardy shrubs which are still green.
Life slows down for us too, unless we have to get in a wood supply!
It’s not sad, this time of the year, but thoughtful.
Although nature cares not how we feel, and there are far too many of us anyway, sometimes it’s impossible not see in seasons some symbolism for our lives. A child born in spring; a wedding or great success in summer, a death in the family in fall — it seems appropriate somehow.
But there’s always the next season.
Peter Lacey is a community correspondent for St. Vital.