Friday, May 19, 2017
As in Seasonal Affective Disorder - I'm actually quite happy, because the weather is beautiful at the moment. In fact, I can't even claim to suffer from SAD the disorder; if I have a disorder, it would be better labelled HAD - Hemispheral Affective Disorder. I am on the wrong side of the planet. Or at least in the wrong climate zone.
I used to be a total sun-child, even here in scorching Perth. A major psychological issue for me was desperately wanting to be in Europe, and yet being quite addicted to our hot-as-hot, sunny-as-sunny and never-cold-for-months-on-end summer. When I lived in London in my early twenties, I struggled to "appreciate" the rare sunny days, as English folk do, because I was used to sunshine being the norm.
But slowly, something changed. The brightness of our sun, so shocking to me on my return, came to feel oppressive rather than joyful. I had children and I switched completely to HATING Perth summers, once it became impossible to let my very active babes run free in our skin-burning, heat-stroking summer days. And on a solo return to London-town a few years back, in a surprisingly sunny summer, I understood fully another issue: while our summer sun shines on dead lawns and wilting gardens, the English sun shines on soft, lush, unbearably-pretty GREEN. My Uncle noted at my observation, that you can have either quality or quantity of sunshine.
And what I've come to feel, is that the seasons here just work wrong.
It's not just that our cultural heritage is English, that one of the many hangovers from Empire is a lingering expectation of Northern-European nature in a clearly very different land - our Christmas celebrations held mid-summer and only partly re-jigged to fit the new time of year; Easter with its pagan messages of new-life (ie. spring) held when the leaves (of the few deciduous trees) begin to fall; and a list of four seasons that simply don't hold true here.
It's also that the progression of the seasons makes sense - emotionally, poetically - in northern Europe. Winter falls and folk move into hibernation mode; the days are short, we trudge to and from work in the dark, and live indoors, eating heartily and making use of the cosy pubs that have evolved with the history of the land. Spring comes with all the glory of the poetry written about it, the earth thaws, the flowers bloom, hope rises with the heat. Summer (when it arrives, I'll concede it doesn't always, at least in England) is more like a Perth spring, the dimmer-switch on the sun in England just doesn't turn up quite as bright as ours. But that makes it usable heat - both the weather and the mood for walks and picnics, playing in the park, pottering about on bodies of water, even optimistic backyard barbecues. And then at last we drift into the most beautiful season of all, the one we almost completely miss in Perth - autumn. A chill joins the air, and the colours come with a delicious melancholy, wistful after the joyous sunshine seasons, preparing for another winter.
Here it is backwards. The world greens as the days grow shorter; by the time the grass has restored, it is largely too chilly or wet to play on it. Autumn is not a note of darkness to come, it is a relief from the excessive heat of summer; our fall-season not only lacks the colour that makes the season aesthetically beautiful in colder climes, it lacks the emotional beauty too. Winter is just annoyingly cold in our suddenly under-heated homes, and when it rains it pours. Spring, my least favourite season, means still-not-hot-enough-for-the-beach, and miniature native blooms hiding in the scrub.
I know I am biased by my desire to leave this town, and you may say I am simply seeing the grass as greener... (although in this case it is literally greener grass). My point is not really to say which is better, but which suits me. And as an intellectual-ish type, a writer of sorts, I have come to need the poetry of a cool climate, over the activity of a hot one.
We had a plan at one point to move to Lisbon. It was our then desire to keep Perth summers, whilst living in Europe. But now I crave only Northern Europe. Four seasons, in order. And red-flecked, chilly, nostalgia-inducing AUTUMN, every year.