I don’t think that I could live in a place where there were no seasons, where everything was either green or white or gray all the time. Of course, I base that on the fact that I have never lived where there WERE no seasons, which means that I’ve never left Maine other than for the occasional day or road trip. Living where nature manifests herself in all her different personas has allowed me to get to know her in ways that I don’t think would be possible in a place where it’s always raining and gray, white and frozen, or green and humid. I’d be deprived of her many moods and of the subtle variations in between that often defy description.
I’ve seen trees standing stalwart and brave against winter’s strongest blasts, then wear their mantles of snow regally. I’ve witnessed bare birch tree branches explode into a chartreuse blaze in spring, and striped maples shed their notebook-paper-sized leaves in fall, surrounded by woods that are literally on fire with every color of the red/yellow/gold spectrum. And I’ve been privy to the slow fade between each of the seasons, their limbo states where they pull and tug at each other until one ultimately wins, and the landscape changes yet again.
What would life–MY life–be without all this drama that plays itself out reliably and faithfully each year right outside my door?
I would never have gotten to know nature as I have, that’s what. I would never have been compelled to ask all the questions I’ve asked or wonder at all the mysteries as I have, from the wee stirrings in the spring soil to the force that bends trees into permanent and frozen submission.
A love of nature and a passion for writing go hand in hand, and I’m not the first writer to think this. The great naturalist and writer Henry David Thoreau knew this, as was illustrated by the journals that he kept from 1837 to 1862 of all of his observations. On March 18, 1858, he wrote: “Each new year is a surprise to us. We find that we had virtually forgotten the note of each bird, and when we hear it again it is remembered like a dream, reminding us of a previous state of existence. How happens it that the associations it awakens are always pleasing, never saddening; reminiscences of our sanest hours? The voice of nature is always encouraging.”
In this single passage, Thoreau encapsulates the importance of experiencing the four seasons. For without the stark differences between them, no contrasts could be made, and there would not be much to look forward to in the natural world. I’ve been told by more than a few people who live in places like Florida or Arizona how much they miss certain qualities that they are no longer able to enjoy. Of course, snow and cold are never among them, but there is a distinct melancholia regarding the absence of fall color or the spring flush of yellow-green in the birches.
It is in large part due to where I am that I can do what I do: write about that which moves me the most, which is, I think, quite evident in my own work.
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