The emails have already been infiltrated with talk of the Season. A local electronics store wants to wish me greetings for the Season in their “Countdown to Techmas!” (Body Benefits Percussive Massage Gun now at the HOT PRICE of $185!) An international book chain reminds me that it’s the Festive Season, and that means buying books! Doesn’t matter if they get read or not! Ideally in the next three days if I want them to reach New Zealand in time for the Big Day. ⏰ Tick tick tick! A shoe shop I gave my email address to twenty years ago offers a jolly good Seasonal deal, because this could be The Year I start running again. (Also, could I please take this survey on whether I’ve started running again?) And the real estate agents roll out the only pun they know for the Season:
This is not another email about the Capital Letter Season (Merry Christmas – you have been spared...), but an examination of the humble lower case seasons: those quarterly events where our expectations and climates shift, but seldom in the direction we predict.
I may, in the ensuing paragraphs, come across as a good-weather grinch, but you should know this: I can appreciate a patch of blue sky through the clouds as much as the next person. 🌤 I know spring is edging its way in when the sunlight has enough strength to cast its beams across the room, throwing a swirling scene of microscopic beauty into relief, capturing an entire universe of cascading dust motes. It’s captivating for about five seconds and then it’s kind of disgusting. It reminds me of a high school science lesson where we took agar cultures of what was on our fingers, and grew entire colonies of pink and yellow bacteria, or fungi.
Spring is the season of reminders. It reminds us that there is sun. It reminds us that we have a garden, and trees, which are all now active and ready to get out of control again. It reminds us that we have chickens which can be infected with mites, transferred from other wild birds; and unless we go to war with the mites, our chickens will have the life literally sucked out of them. It reminds us that we have mattresses that should be aired, and a cellar and a garage that ought to be organised, and... it reminds us of all the property things that winter gives you tacit permission to let hibernate.
Chores. That’s what we’re being reminded of by spring. Thanks a lot, spring. As the weather warms up and the ratio of “good” days (commonly taken to mean those with the most sun) increases, I actually start to miss the colder, rainy days, when the outside world demanded less of me, and I felt justified spending all day inside, working remotely, at my desk, snug.
Around here, with summer comes opportunity, but the window can be narrow. There’s a bounty of raspberries for the taking, but you need to get in quick, before the birds or the berry worms. I’ll be wondering where the kids have gone, but then find them inside the raspberry bushes, gorging themselves. The plums will grow and ripen, but they might all just fall off the tree on a gusty day, and if this happens while we’re away, well, we’re just brewing plum wine on the ground. They’re weird plums too – they stay green, even when ripe.
Summer weather on the Kāpiti Coast is temperamental and semitropical. It’s blazing hot one moment, a squall of cool rain the next. Drying washing on the line can be fraught, but it’s easy to grow things, even when you don’t mean to. We have a covert avocado tree that grew out of a stone tossed out in the compost. It’s also harder to tame the lawns in these humid conditions. The entire neighbourhood sounds like an airport as everyone runs their lawnmowers and weedeaters constantly. Last night someone was mowing their lawn at 9:30pm, in pitch black darkness.
Autumn (or “fall”) is a poorly defined time of year, sandwiched between more definitive seasons, neither here nor there. The density of deciduous trees in some countries will turn the whole world red and yellow, but it’s a bit patchier down here at the bottom of the world. Some of our trees are too stubborn to relinquish their leaves, or they do so quietly, with a less dramatic colour transition.
The autumnal climate lurches back and forth between holding on to the heat or just wanting it to be winter already. I lather on the sunscreen and go for a walk but then it starts raining and rinses the stuff into my eyes. The next day I wear a raincoat because it looks gloomy, but then the sun breaks through in full force and steams me inside my jacket like a pork bun. Autumn either doesn’t know what it wants, or it’s having a good laugh because it knows what we want but withholds it for LOLs.
Winter is coming
I prefer winter. It feels like coming home. (This might be my Scottish Allardice clan lineage talking – it’s cold in Scotland, right?) Winter is the time to stop worrying about outdoor endeavours and to retreat into the house cocoon. Life is closed for a few months, save for what can be done under a roof. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the outdoors – I do. It’s just that winter releases me from the obligations of fine weather. It’s more acceptable to be lazy in winter.
This preference might have something to do with genetics. My kids and I run pretty hot by mammalian standards. When we exercise we turn bright red, even though we’re pretty fit. We require few layers for sleeping, even on relatively cool evenings (my kids shun their blankets for most of the year and are honestly the thrashiest sleepers in the world). Summer is hard for people who run hot; winter is a balancing force for us. Not so for my wife Vic. Vic is a reptile who must strap hot-water bottles to herself to survive, in every season save for summer.
The New Zealand winter doesn’t always play along and stay consistently cool, however. It can be tricksy. A weekend day will present sun, so we’ll take the dog for a blat at the beach, but then the weather will shift and we’ll be sandblasted with arctic air. It doesn’t even get that cold here, by global standards. (Is this why no one who’s built houses over the last 150 years bothered with insulation?) I’ve only seen snow on the Kāpiti Coast once, when I was teaching at the local high school. The students saw it through the windows and ran out of their classrooms to dance about with their hands in the air, while the assistance principal stormed around screaming at them to go back to class. Most of the teachers were content to let the students have their moment. Many of the students would have never even touched snow before – why would we deny them that?
It’s not winter down here in New Zealand, although it is nearly Christmas.
It’s summer. Summer is sunscreen attracting all the grit to your face; summer is hayfever tablets; summer is the eversweat; summer is surviving the humidity.
If you need me at full power, just wait for me there at the end of winter, friends. There you’ll find me emerging from the cocoon, transformed, ready for another year, blinking in the bright spring light.
Just finishing up. Have you done my thing?
There appear to be two dominant “finish the year” workplace styles:
- Wind down. Okay people, it’s been a big year. Let’s ease up on the pace, let’s take stock, let’s plan for the coming year, and let’s be kind to ourselves.
- Whip crack ramp up. Okay people, it’s going to come down to the line. You have a limited time to close out absolutely everything we’ve thrown at you, so this will be a big couple of weeks. Come 4:59pm on Christmas Eve, there’ll be an opportunity to charge those batteries. Which better be at 150% once you’re back.
This week’s list features the subtle and not subtle ways you might be nudged along at work: