Tag Archives: Seasons

The Sky

The sky is changing.

My bike spent time in the shop this week, which meant I walked to work. At first I was annoyed, because of course there were things I’d planned to do on that first surprising morning and I wanted to get to work early to do them. I took a moment to be frustrated and then, because there was no other option, pulled myself out of my head and into the day.

This is when I noticed the sky changing. The gray was no longer steely and imposing, but softer, gentler. The light not hours away, but minutes. People riding without bike lights were suddenly less foolish and more visible. Morning was not long in coming, but rather already here.

Just over a year ago, when I first knew I was moving to Germany, I received photos of snow from the colleague I replaced. This was atypical, I was told, and I have since learned that snow like that, snow like the snow I grew up with, only happens every ten years or so.

When I was a child, we waited impatiently for snow days that never came, no matter how many spoons were carefully placed under pillows or pajamas worn inside out. Rochester, New York gets a lot of snow, or at least it used to, and we lived with it. The climate has certainly changed, but my parents’ photos of snow still look like I remember it. Lake effect, they say on the news, as though the type of snow makes any difference to children playing. I only remember one time when a snowball thrown contained more ice than snow and a neighbourhood boy went home crying; I’m sure that happened more than one time.

I remember climbing on the piles of shovelled snow to see the white, white world from a point higher than the lamppost in our yard. I remember the time my dad left his car at the top of the hill behind our house and hiked down, snow up to his waist. I used to keep sandbags in the trunk of my car so that I could drive through the hills leading to our neighbourhood, though sometimes I took the long way to avoid the sharpest right. There was always the danger of missing it. Cycling up that hill in the summer was no one’s idea of fun, so we never did. From the top, there was first a red barn and then fields and then sky.

Two weekends ago, a group of friends headed south into the Thüringer Wald to go for a walk in the snow. There’s usually snow there, I’m told, though it rained there this winter, too.

We greeted cross-country skiers and children sledding and kept the dog away from other dogs. We climbed the tower and were forced back down by the wind, tossed two tiny frisbees, ate delicious muffins and other snacks pulled from backpacks. The boys had a snowball fight and I played photographer as the group built two snowmen. We played in the snow because that’s what snow is for.

The sky was right there through the trees.

The house I grew up in was at the top of one hill and the bottom of a smaller hill, but a hill all the same. The cul-de-sac gave us a snow mountain that grew gradually larger each time the plows came around. As children, we named it after our street and friends from outside the neighbourhood would come over to play in the snow. Building a fort using recycling boxes was always harder than we thought it would be. My siblings and I used to dress our snowmen in Hawaiian shirts from our dress-up box; Mum always gave us a carrot for the nose.

You could see the world from the top of that hill. You could look out across neighbourhoods, across trees, and watch the leaves and the sky change. The atmosphere was peaceful well before I knew the world. Rochester is a cloudy place, a place where, on the rare sunny days, people suddenly come out of their shells. You see smiles where there were previously faces hidden in scarves or behind hoods of raincoats. People greet one another more warmly and the general mood is one of optimism and joy. I have never in my life known people so happy to see the sun.

I forgot that feeling, and then I left the equator and came to another place that is cloudy, a place where I have recently felt the sky change. In Singapore, my apartment looked out over a highway and then the towns to the north. When the sky took over the buildings in the distance, rain was coming. Sky in the tropics changes in a flash, in a second, and if you don’t look now, it’ll be different in a breath. Hours could pass watching it.

This week I saw the sky changing.

And today, clouds are moving across the sun.

This Time of Year

There’s a fun little calendar on the window sill. Its colourful flip pages track not only day of the week, month, date, and year, but also weather, season, and moon phase, which makes more sense when you consider that the day of the week and month are in Hebrew. I purchased this calendar at an art museum in Israel many years ago and it has travelled around the world with me. Before that, it sat on my desk when I taught at Catholic school. When an astounded student asked, “You can read that?” I had to clarify that Hebrew and hieroglyphics are not the same thing and my choice of the falling leaves picture (rather than sleeping forest animals, for instance) simply meant that leaves were falling.

Neither the illustrations of falling leaves nor sleeping animals have been used in quite some time. Seasons are far more subtle on the equator, signified by a shift in wind that changes the texture of the air and how it feels on the skin. There might be more or less rain, but that’s about it.

As I write this, I’ve flipped the weather image to “partly sunny”; we’ve been at “cloudy” for days. It is nice to watch the world change.

Last night, the air smelled like winter. Fresh, clean, sharp, coming down from high places rather than emanating from the ground like summer air. I could smell the grass when I first arrived here in July, and to say that I could not get over it is both silly and the truth.

Tonight is the first night of Chanukah, which I always think of, incorrectly, as a winter holiday. The lunar calendar shifts, after all. Chanukah commemorates the destruction of Jewish communities by the Greeks and the efforts made by groups of rebels to protect themselves and their Holy Temple. A tiny jar of oil burned for eight days, the story says, and we light candles for eight days in commemoration. Traditionally, there are delicious fried foods and a game that uses a spinning top called a dreidel in Yiddish. The only dreidel I currently have is a decorative one that I received as a Bat Mitzvah gift a shocking number of years ago. It hangs, as it always has, year-round in front of a window. My menorah (more accurately, chanukiah) was a Bat Mitzvah gift, too.

This brings me back to the calendar. My Bat Mitzvah, my coming of age in the eyes of the Jewish community, fell on the second night of Chanukah and also on American Thanksgiving weekend. It snowed that night.

We have snow in the forecast this week, as well, but right now we have a sunny morning. The sun came out in full force yesterday afternoon, and suddenly the world looked a little bit bigger. We were no longer huddled under a cloud. Yesterday, I was out in the rain to mail a stack of postcards and commented about the weather in all of them. I knew how easy it was to live on the equator, and I thought about it every time I ran out of the house in sandals and a tank top late in the evening because I suddenly decided I wanted a specific vegetable for dinner, but I didn’t remember how many actions were required to do the same when it’s dark in the middle of the afternoon and only getting colder.

I do think Chanukah comes at a good time of year. My consumption of fried foods will be limited, but I am looking forward to the glow from the candles. It feels different in a cold place.

May this time of year, with all of it festivals, traditions, rituals, and holidays, be a peaceful time for all. Chag sameach!

Weimar, Germany – November 2021

Turning

The world is turning, and I know this now in a way I have not known it, not really, for a number of years. I know that the world is turning because the light is changing. I knew this, of course, and have known it, but now the light is changing; I have missed this.

For the first time today, I had to turn on my bike lights for my five-minute ride to school. It was dark. I haven’t had this in a long time. The suns rises and sets around the same time all year round on the equator, roughly between 7:00 and 7:30, morning or evening. By comparison, when I arrived in Germany in July, the sun rose at 5:12am and set at 9:27pm. Today, it rose at 7:20am, which is when I turned my lights on, and will set at 6:45pm.

Something I was very aware of while living in Malaysia and Singapore was how difficult I found it to judge the passage of time. With the same light, darkness, and more or less the same weather, it was hard to remember when a certain event had occurred and almost impossible to keep track of what I would have worn to said event. Same clothes for same events, all year round. (Notable exceptions being caught in the rain during particular summer storms, and the cold front that came through Singapore last January during which I, for the first and only time, wore jeans in my house.)

It’s different here. Aware of how much colder it will soon be, and it has been cold already, I’ve been very deliberate in spending time outside. And then I remind myself that I moved countries because I missed seasons and that, before Covid, my friends and I were making travel decisions based on which seasons we wanted to experience. Fall in Korea, winter in Europe, spring in Japan.

The amount of light is changing, the leaves are slowly beginning to follow, and the air tastes different in the morning, afternoon, and evening. The apples that I’ve been picking off trees have ripened, and I’ve completely given up on open-toed shoes. I’d need to change clothes multiple times a day to be consistently comfortable, so I’ve settled in a mostly happy medium of tights, scarves, and jackets that zip.

The world is tuning and time is passing. Later this week it will have been three months since I arrived here, which is already a quarter of a year. How did I get here, and so quickly? If I look back six months, which puts “arrival in Germany” squarely in the middle, much of what constitutes my day-to-day is unrecognizable. And much has remained so obviously the same.

So it goes, whether or not we stop to think about it. While days might stretch on forever, weeks pass. While weeks drag, days might fly by. Such is time. This, too, shall pass, and for everything, there is a season. So it goes. And so, one foot in front of the other, do we.

Nami Island, South Korea – October 2019