I know that it can happen ay any time of year, the amorousness of males typically being a year-round kind of thing, but the sight of two boxing hares surrounded by a flock of lapwing at the end of January brought to focus the way in which the seasons are drifting like untethered dinghies on an ebb tide, losing their distinct and welcome identity.
Once, the sharp edges of our seasons brought change and celebration, the high, sharp heat of summer, the return of ‘mists and mellow fruitfulness’ for autumn, the bone-cutting bitterness of winter. But this winter -at least down here in the south – has been dull and unremarkable, something to be endured not for its challenges but for its boredom, for the lack of any contrast as a grey sky hung with unmoving clouds and black skeletal trees just sits there like the unwelcome guest who won’t leave long after the party is over. Winter no longer casts off its winter clothes, it just slowly fades into Spring in a series of back-and-forth jitters with days of spring freshness and warmth still interspersed with that grinding, dispiriting grey sameness.
Contrast is what makes our seasons into our seasons, bringing a sense of release, of a new phase being entered. This is why I love to live in this country: I would find the continuous warmth of the Med too same-y and the thought of never again waking out to greet a morning armed with teeth of cold that bite through my jacket would be unwelcome. It is the march of the seasons that tell us we are alive, that we are still part of a common journey, and now I feel cheated, robbed of my seasons and given instead something as dull as the Med but without the benefits of low heating bills and waters you can swim in without risking hypothermia.
I’m getting older now and feel the cold more easily, so never thought I’d say this: bring back the sharp ones. Bring back the winters that reach into my gloves and squeeze my hands. Bring back billowing breath and dripping noses and the ethereal otherworldly light of a snowfall. I want my winters savage and unruly, wild and untamed again.