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You may think I must have been eating too many sunflower seeds or something like that, but I am aware that in this year of writing (2016) there is much talk of the younger generations who are reacting with anger because they cannot get their way (Brexit in UK, Trump in USA, referendum in Italy and so on) and I came across a writer the other day who suggested that this comes out of a fear that has grown as so many have become more and more taken up with social media to such an extent that they feel insecure outside their tight-knit enclaves of communication, and thus they fear when those are threatened and they become angry. That is the theory at least. If it is true, then we truly live in a changing world, and in some ways a sad world.

So how does this lead me to talk about (again) the aspects of the world we miss or the world we fail to appreciate. Well just now I used the phrase, ‘tight-knit enclaves of communication’ that are obviously good at one level but not so good when it comes to being inward looking and ‘groupie’. The ‘big view’ of life is, I suggest, healthier. Let’s see if I can explain this ramble a bit more.

So why the title of this piece, ‘Walking the Seasons’? I write (for those who might read this months ahead) in late Autumn and today we woke up to another morning of quite thick mist. It looked cold and damp but as I gazed down the garden and noted the electronic thermometer’s reading – 1.2 degrees – my instinctive reaction was, “Wow, need to stay indoors this morning.” But that was followed by, “No, I need to experience this,” and without putting on a coat or hat I wandered down the length of our garden which, at that time, was still and silent – few others were up then. In short spells, 1.2 degrees is not particularly cold and the mist was not sufficiently thick to make it feel damp. Dew-laden spiders’ webs hung in hedges and shrubs, the ground was wet and the low sky mistily grey and the birds were few. Stillness and loneliness.

So, to clarify my goal even more I want to distinguish that sense of ‘stay in the warm and stay safe’ from the ‘experience all the shades of this world while you can.’  When I look back, I realise that some of my most distinct memories are of times when we have confronted the weather, maybe not always enjoying it as such, but certainly relishing the experience.

I think of temperature extremes or even humidity extremes.  I remember the first time I walked out of the airport in Singapore to be hit by this dense curtain of incredible humidity and an uncomfortably high temperature. Uncomfortable and unpleasant.  How different from the air on a jetty on a Greek island I later experienced where the guide said, “I ought to get you off here; the locals have just told me it is just under 50 degrees.” How amazing. Dry heat, hardly noticeable. Dangerously pleasant even.

I often swim in an outdoor pool, right though winter, and there you note that minus two degrees air temperature without any wind is not unpleasant, but four degrees with a northerly breeze is bitter – but still worth doing. I have memories of walking across the top of the Quantocks in Somerset in the middle of winter with a sharp blue sky and bright sunshine but with a wind that sought to cut you in half. It was a gale force wind that made sailing on a gravel pit such an exhilarating experience one Christmas – not cold but powerful. Much warmer to stay indoors and be safe, but thrilling to hang over an old tub thrashing along in the gale. Walking across the nearby fields of Gusted Hall recently, when the wind was strong and cutting is a totally different experience than the walk across the high path in the stillness of summer when skylarks dip and dive and butterflies flit here and there. Both beautiful experiences yet utterly different.

Being outside in the seasons can be awesome – if you are alert to the wonder of it all. We have just come through Autumn and most of the leaves that are going to fall have fallen, but sitting gazing at the incredible colours of the falling leaves has been stunning. Now the skeletons that are the different trees with their amazingly different branch and twig configurations tell me that winter is here. As I gaze up there are little pouches of leaf and twigs, the nests of the birds from this last year, clinging to the tree outline and wondering whether they will make it to next year. As I marvel at the different tree structures I think back three months to the times where there was lush abundance which, on a sunny day, meant areas of deep shade contrasting the bright dashes of sunlight that reached the ground. Within another month or so we will start watching the earliest of the trees budding; there is always an order as one after another (and you learn to spot the order) eases into life again, and after buds will come leaves and/or blossom. I feel sorry for the urban dweller whose temptation is to miss all this life activity going on around us. The temptation is, of course, to sit before the fire or in front of the TV and miss it, or spend life clicking on a cell phone or gazing into shop windows.

Age brings with it infirmity but I don’t think that should mean a complete loss of awareness of this world around us, merely that perhaps we can’t do some of the things we might have done once, but let’s not let it cut us off from this ‘big picture’ world.

I think if I was a half decent photographer I would want to do a project photographing people in all the different seasons – wrapped up and leaning into the wind or snow of the winter, moving into lighter clothing as spring moves towards summer, tee shirts of summer relaxing in the sun in a multitude of poses, the mixed clothing of autumn as the fearful wrap up early and the fearless remain in shorts as long as possible. Food through the seasons would be another topic for a photographic study. Or perhaps clouds.

The older I become the more aware of these things I become and I fear, fear; I do not want to allow fear to isolate me, shutting me away from the wonder of this incredible and sometimes unkind world that we live in. I will relish this world, I will marvel at every change, I will not get locked up in the worries of an isolated life. I will get out, I will visit different places and talk to different people. I will appreciate my sight and my hearing and my taste, as long as I have them. This world is too good to miss!  Let’s close, as we usually do with some meaningful and not-so-meaningful quotes. (I dedicate this article to those who work too hard to be to see wonder around them, and those around the world who live in climates with virtually no seasons)

Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.”

― Franz Kafka

“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”

― Rachel Carson

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

― W.B. Yeats

“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”

― Socrates

“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.”

― Robin Sharma

Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.

Stephen Hawking

Wonder rather than doubt is the root of all knowledge.

Abraham Joshua Heschel

Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.

Albert Schweitzer

Sameness is the mother of disgust, variety the cure.


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