Autumn is falling leaves, crisp cold air, apple cider, harvest time. We celebrate Halloween with pumpkins and Thanksgiving with turkey, corn stalks and more pumpkin. Winter is cold, with snow and ice. We build snowmen, go skiing or skating, drink cocoa by the fire. The trees are bare. Spring is lilacs, bulbs sprouting and flowering, rain showers followed by sun, warming air, cherry blossoms. The first strawberries, freshly sprouted greens. And summer is hot, time to go to the beach, trees in full leaf, cherries, ice cream, sodas, picnics and barbecues on a lush green lawn. Outside living. Interrupted by a brief thunderstorm.
These symbols are not wrong but they are provincial and stereotypical.
Meanwhile, I have heard many people say that the Bay Area has no seasons. Having grown up here, I can attest that these people are wrong. We do not have the Hallmark card Christmasses or dream of a White Christmas (except to drive to the Sierras), many of our trees are still in leaf in January, and the grass is green in Winter, brown in Summer. But we have seasons, albeit a bit more subtle here. One must be tuned into Nature to feel our seasons. We do celebrate the traditional holidays the same as on the East Coast, but with a slight change. And our diverse community means that many other holidays are celebrated as well, such as Divali, Moon Festival, Eid al Fiitr, Rosh Hashana, and Juneteenth. The photo essay that follows are my thoughts and feelings about our seasons in the Bay Area. I'd love to hear from readers if they agree or disagree and what are your favorite parts to each season.
Then there are the holidays. Stereotypical and provincial as they are, I grew up with these holidays and they still mean something special to me. Autumn brings the harvest holidays for many cultures. It brings the Moon Festival, when one eats mooncakes, and Diwali, festival of lights, and Sukkoth, another harvest festival. But most popular is Halloween, a time for kids to dress up and go out at night. Spooky decorations and carved pumpkins. Then comes Thanksgiving, a holiday to spend with family, and interestingly one that has been less commercialized than other holidays. Cooking together, sharing food, and sharing a meal. And a chance to eat turkey. Roast turkey with gravy, hot turkey sandwich, cold turkey sandwich until finally I have had enough turkey to last me a while. A cornucopia centerpiece filled with Fall produce, which in the Bay Area usually includes a pomegranate, sometimes kiwis, and lemons. And Fall leaves dipped in melted wax to preserve them. Traditionally, I plant my bulbs on Thanksgiving weekend. A promise of Spring to come.
December is a holiday month. Like others, I put up lights at the beginning of the month to brighten the dark evenings. I decorate the house with Christmas scenes and I set up an advent wreath. Some years, there is a Christmas tree. Aa a child, the Christmas tree was the centerpiece, surrounded by wrapped presents that we could see but not touch. Eager anticipation. Then there was the display put on by Mr. Shadi, an Indian Sikh who, despite his origin and religion, put on a full Bethlehem display every year. I knew that display from my early childhood and it has now been taken on by volunteers so that it lives beyond its creator. A true gift to the community.
As an adult, I attend the Christmas Revels, the Messiah sing along, and the Christmas Eve service. I sing Christmas carols in the car, at home alone, in my singing group. I love Christmas carols, always have, and have learned at least 100 of them in various languages. As a teacher, I loved planning holiday lessons in Math, Language Arts, and Art, singing holiday songs, and the general aura of festivity.
The last days of December have always been a letdown to me. The presents were opened and no longer a focus of anticipation but simply things. The holiday festivities ended and financial tasks awaited. While teaching, I did no schoolwork the week before Christmas but then had to do it all the following week before classes started again. Today, it is more an end to the festivities and activity and a time for quiet reflection.
But January brings its own pleasures. While there is still welcome rain, one day I see the tulip trees are blooming, a harbinger of Spring to come. The bulbs begin to poke up their green leaves. The days imperceptibly begin to grow longer. Spring is on its way.
I used to hear that Spring was wonderful in the East and that California had no Spring. I would counter that the Eastern Spring may be more spectacular, with its lilacs and the snow melted, but it is fleeting, while our Spring, filled with bird song and blossoms of all colors and sunny days, lasts four months.
In late May comes summer. Along with cherries. Hot summer days, sunning on the beach. Not. Summer in the Bay Area, at least by the Bay, is fog. Warm days and cool nights. As a child, I would change my clothes several times a day in the summer: first long pants and a jacket in the morning, later shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, then back to the jacket in the evening. But always barefoot, for the pavement held the heat of midday. A jacket and shorts was de rigueur. Summer, of course, meant vacation from school. As a student, time to just loaf or find activities of my own. Play time with friends. And family vacations. My favorite of these were the times we went camping. Lots of outdoor time. Popsicles and lemonade. Picnics. As an adult and teacher, summer was a welcome relief, time to rest then to plan the following school year. Perhaps a trip somewhere. Time to clean up and do all the household chores I had neglected during the school year. Time to work in the yard every day. Precious time. For seven years, I enjoyed the arrival of the next Harry Potter book just as school got out. I silently thanked Scholastic for timing the books' arrival to coincide with the end of the schoolyear. I could just sit and read all day and night for several days.
The only real summer holiday is July 4th. It has never been my favorite holiday. The fireworks didn't impress me all that much and reminded my of bombs. In recent years, I worry about their effect on the ospreys and other birds nesting. Still, they can be fun to watch. Of course, many years, the fog obscures one's view. Our well-loved fog, so loved that it has been named Karl. The symbol of summer in the Bay Area.
JM Weighs in:
Time and Change
Time does not flow!
It does not come
And it does not go.
Change is perceived
And time is conceived.
Time is a concept,
And change, a reality.
Let live what can and wills to live
Let die the tired and spent.
Each creature has its span of time
In tune with nature's way.
Let be what is and what was meant to be,
And let life take its lotted course, no less.
Whence, whither, why?
The mysteries of life!
We'll never cease to ask
And we'll never know.