As I sit here, the chill of the walk to nursery just beginning to peel off in the warmth of the café, it’s a curious feeling that the air outside is a lot colder than in here for the first time in months. I’m an Australian living in England and about to face the first full northern hemisphere winter of my life. I’ve got over 40 years of sunny and moderate climate conditioning to overcome and I feel like I need to prepare.
So now that the coffee has arrived and I’m all set to ponder on the page, how does our experience change with the seasons? Even though many of us live in cities, how are we affected by weather and the natural environment?
First things first, that old adage about Spring being a time for friskiness and reproduction is actually no joke. I mean did you know that sperm counts actually increase significantly at that time of year? I myself am walking proof of this, a spring pregnancy now 27 weeks along after three and a half years of a real intention to have another. Maybe it was the spa – the 10,000 year old rainwater that bubbles up through the old Roman Baths at our city centre and has long been known to create healing – or maybe it was just spring.
In Sydney, where I lived until last year, the weather was important but I don’t recall it being quite as important as it seems to be here. When we first came over I noticed the daily conversations about the weather and I resisted for a time thinking it was some kind of British thing that I didn’t relate to. Right now as I sit here, the lady ordering her coffee and discussing the cold spell this morning with the barista is confirming this phenomenon – weather matters here. And I’m starting to see why.
Over here in the south west of England, there aren’t heavy and dramatic tropical storms, but there might be light to medium drizzle for days on end with an accompanying blanket grey palette. No short sharp statement, but a long and seemingly unending squall on the soul. It forces you inside, it gets you damp and dank and everything around you is the same – the house, the washing, the mood. So of course people talk about it, and of course it has an affect.
The owner of the café I sit in right now was just saying how his patronage is reduced by 30% in summer because people around here feel a massive pressure to use the good weather when it’s around, not to waste it sitting inside drinking coffee.
So when we talk about people with a ‘sunny disposition’ it is as if we are saying, ‘that person reminds me of summer’. If you’ve ever studied marketing, you‘ll know that brands are about how you feel when you experience them – like for example the black fizzy soft drink or the swoosh running shoe. Seasons are the same: they make us feel things.
In summer with the sun shining on your face walking through a field of grass, endorphins and serotonin are pumping through us – our very control centre shifts a gear and gives us all kinds of free hormonal joy rides. It doesn’t stop there. Eating seasonally ensures greater nutritional value as levels of vitamins and minerals peak in fresh food that has not travelled long distances nor been grown in artificial environments out of season.
So yes, even though we may live in a garden (the city), we are still borne of the jungle (wilderness). And even though we wear clothes and drive cars and live in built environments, we are still subject to the laws of nature. Indeed we remain physiologically animal.
On that basis I recommend that we attempt at every possible opportunity to connect with nature, to remember our wild souls and to surrender to the laws of the environment. From this we may only benefit, we may become more a part of the world we depend on for existence, we may respect nature and its needs and impositions and even hopefully work with it to the betterment of ourselves and all other beings on the planet. So now you see where I was going with this?
Smile. Breathe. Take a walk outside, no matter the weather. Remember you are and will always be connected to the greatness that is nature and the seasons, consciously or not.