A new year. I wonder why they decided to start a new year right in the middle of winter? It would make more sense to have a brand-new year start at the beginning of spring, IMO. That’s when everything feels new. That’s when the light changes and things are budding and one has a new sense of life and possibilities after the darkness of winter.
A friend of mine posted a sped-up film clip of an entire “day” in Fairbanks, Alaska, in the middle of winter. Their whole solar day lasts about 3.5 hours, from sunrise to sunset, and the sun never gets very high in the sky. I’ve never lived farther north than Manhattan, so that whole concept is amazing to me, and it’s led me to wonder how much our natural surroundings, the light and the temperature, affects us. I grew up in New Orleans, which basically has nine months of heat and humidity and then three months of yucky cold rain. Then I lived in New York, where to me it felt like there was six months of wretched cold, a month of glorious spring, almost three months of unbearable heat, and then two months where all the trees lost their leaves. When there was snow in the winter, it was the most beautiful thing ever, coating everything, making it all look clean and new, silencing so much of the ambient noise of the city. But the summers were hard, with the buildings and streets soaking up heat all day and releasing it all night.
When we decided to find a new place to live, when my kids were little, we did research for about a year to find the best place. We both worked at home, so could move pretty much anywhere. We stayed on the east coast, because our work came out of NY and we had family in DC. I wanted four real seasons, three months of each, and I didn’t want to be too far inland, because I get claustrophobic if I’m too far away from large water. So we settled on North Carolina. It really does have four even seasons. The summer is pretty hot, but I know that the heat will break in late September. The winter is pretty cold, but spring comes in March. The spring is really long and incredibly beautiful–every day I go outside and walk around the yard or the state park and see all the life bursting out everywhere. It uplifts my soul and fills me with hope and promise. And the autumns are everything an autumn should be: crisp, lots of color on the trees, a gradual shutting down and putting-to-bed of nature. I see the deers’ coats changing from summer red to winter brown. A lot of greenery dies down and I can see through the trees, see my neighbors’ houses, which I can’t really see in the summertime. I feel like cooking and baking.
I like paying attention to all that. I live in a modern, technological world, with appliances and gadgets and email and the interwebz. I can get stuck inside of it, sometimes. So I try to get outside every day, try to observe something outside every day. It makes me feel tied to the earth, more intensely alive. It makes time slow down a little bit. It seems important.
What effect does nature have on you?