Seasons of contentment
Today is an autumnal day in Somerset. Misty fog hanging over the Mendips, filling Cheddar Gorge. It’s the type of day where I want to sit listening to the rainfall tapping out a background time to the blues.
For years, if somebody were to ask me a foolish question about a favourite season, I would chirp up with summer. Summer was a time of the extremes (not to mention the season of my birth), and in Southern California summer was really the only season we did properly.
When I moved out of the chaparral, with its annual fiery rebirth, and into a snow climate, my preference shifted to winter. Or maybe summer and winter. Again, the extremes. I wanted my hot hottest and my cold coldest. Thunderstorms and blizzards marked the polarities for me, and anything between that was a waste of time.
Upon moving to Vermont, I began to hate autumn with a passion. Autumn in Vermont is a showy whore. The leaves turn all sorts of reds and oranges and busloads of middle-aged tourists come pouring in, pointing and gaping as though leaves were somehow an acceptable reason for a holiday. This was the autumn of postcards and twee country painters. It was the autumn that inspired the colour palettes for so many bad back to school ads. This was the mythical autumn of ruddy faced kids wearing wellies, jumping in puddles and running through a flame-coloured pile of fallen leaves. Autumn in Vermont was hell.
For me, the pleasure was always when it ended. When the frost had descended, knocking the leaves to the ground, and the first pathetic snow turned them all to mulch underfoot. That was the bit of autumn I was ok with. Autumn as decay.
It’s that appreciation of decay that I still enjoy. It’s the morbid part, the bitchy part. It’s the part where everyone has to go back to school, where the days get shorter, where the sun pops out once a week. It’s the suffering of the season. It’s the extremity of it all. Autumn captures so much hatred. Autumn is the dead time after the fun of summer but before the holly jolly bullshit of winter’s start.
Here, the seasons aren’t so harsh, and by and large they all end up fairly wet. There’s something that makes autumn the perfect season for England. Like the Californian summer and the Vermont winter, England was born for autumn. The cups of tea, the rain, the whisky — it all works so well in autumn.
Today we went for a drive, no planning but just a desire to go on a bit of a trip. We went through narrow lanes and looked at goats and cows and sheep and horses. We watched the fog, drove towards it, drove into it. This is England on the cusp of autumn and it is beautiful.
I still hate spring, though. Spring can do one.