Commentary by Tom Henihan
The transition from summer into fall and winter is always a time of reckoning with a sense of regret that summer seems all too fleeting, compared to the interminably slow process of winter.
At the same time, there is a feeling of anticipation for the different pace and new endeavors that are in keeping with the seasons that lay ahead.
Of course, it is hard to look forward to winter, at least in the abstract, thinking of starting the car in the morning, shoveling snow, being delayed getting home by treacherous conditions and the sense of confinement dictated by cold weather.
However, many people who have had an opportunity to live in eternal sunshine discover they miss the changing seasons, find endless sunshine becomes tedious and are surprised at how acclimatized they have become to the vagaries of the seasons. They discover that they are nostalgic for the vigor and freshness of a good snowstorm.
No matter how exciting or desirable one period of the year might be, by the time the season ends, in spite of our reluctance and futile protests, there is something coded in us that is ready for that change.
For now, though the weather remains hot and children are still playing unfettered by any strict schedule, there is already the melancholy realization that it is time to quickly finish or else postpone those projects that call for warm, dry, clement weather. It is a time to recalibrate one’s priorities, the putting away of certain things and the bringing out of others.
This concerns practical things, such as garden equipment and deck furniture. It also applies to the clothes we wear and the vehicle we drive.
In the north, the change of season necessitates a radical overhaul of how we live and behave. More profoundly, it also applies to our immediate plans and aspirations: the postponement of a particular road trip that must wait for another time, or some summer activity that one had hoped to try for the first time. Those plans are set aside for another time; next summer maybe?
Apart from skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing and so on, winter also offers the close perimeters that are conductive to learning and creativity, to internal growth that can be just as exciting and adventurous as the more overt growth and animated physicality of summer.
Surprisingly, children approach the end of summer with more enthusiasm than most adults do. As the summer ends, their collective psyche seems to be instinctively in lockstep with the moods of the environment, they appear eager to go with the flow, to embrace and enjoy the changes.
While I am sure that new supplies and new clothes are an incentive to looking forward to a return to school, it is also evident that kids are genuinely looking forward to reconnecting with their school friends and around mid-August, begin asking repeatedly how many more days they must wait before school begins.
Though they may not admit it or even be aware, they also welcome a return to the focus of having set parameters. They instinctively recognize that routine and discipline offer their own kind of freedom.
However, after six months of fall and winter when the transition to springtime begins, unlike this time of year, there is never any sense of reservation or regret.