The Gratitude Challenge’s eleventh topic is “Seasons”.
When I worked in Thailand, some European colleagues lamented the absence of clearcut seasons. While I think it’s true that every season has its attraction and comes with different feelings, scents, visuals, and sounds, one of the main reasons for leaving Germany was the weather. I get so strongly impacted by cold and dark weather; during German winter I can wear two pairs of gloves above each other and still lose all feeling in my fingers, turning into a grumpy, paralysed block of ice that cannot even turn a key or untie his own shoelaces anymore. Because of this, the weather in Thailand is actually perfect for me: Days with temperatures above 30°C are my preference. Waking up and not feeling cold, walking in January in shorts and flip flops gives me great joy.
Japanese people often told me that they are proud of Japan’s uniqueness of having four seasons, which is obviously a misconception. However, Japan does put a strong emphasis on seasonality in all aspects of life. Even the plates used to serve 季節料理 (seasonal cuisine) differ. Independent from the country and not considering the pain of cold weather, I can get something enjoyable out of each season and in their dynamic, powerfully showing us that everything in life is a cycle.
Spring shows us how life is waking up and how nature puts all that energy in making beautiful flowers bloom, occasional and then more and more frequent early songs of returning birds give farewell to the cold times. There are fresh and sweet smells every. Freshly mown grass smells “grassier” and more wet in spring than in summer. Lilies of the valley with their sometimes almost overwhelming scent accompany us during our walks through nature. As temperatures rise, my walking speed goes down and I can take breaks to breath and enjoy.
Summer is the time when I yearn for the scents of osmanthus, jasmine, and roses. Early daylight and – in Germany – late sunsets make us want to spend as much time outside as possible, taking in all that energy from nature that we were dreaming of in winter. Also, our houses smell so differently as it gets warmer. It has something soothing to wake up to the smell of warm wood that seems to finally be able to exhale and relax after having endured a long time in a hunched-up state to protect us from cold winds and icy storms. Eating tons of cherries when passing trees that are in full fruit and later regretting the overeating. The light dust of wheatfields and running over stubbly remains as late summer opens the way to approaching autumn.
While the weather can be somewhat depressing and melancholic in autumn, the scents are definitely the most diverse and interesting of the whole year – in the countryside that is. After I moved to a city the first time in my life, I was so sad to realize that all that variety of autumnal scents boil down to a mere “rotting leaves on the wet street” experience when we live in the city. In my childhood area, a short walk is enough to enjoy the pervasive fruity-sweet scent of quinces, the cidery smell of fallen apples and leaves, sugar-packed and juicy plums, and of so many more nourishing gifts of nature that give us the energy to make it through energy-sapping winter.
Winter is probably my least preferred season. I can enjoy a snow landscape for a week but then temperatures can go back to 30°C please, thank you. During that one week though I would enjoy the crisp and clear winter air with the scent of burnt wood that comes from chimneys and the scrunching sound of boots making their way through fresh snow. Picking up walnuts and munching on them while passing sky-high fir trees in a silent forest, the tranquillity only interrupted by short sightings of wild boards and deer.
I am grateful for having had the opportunity to discover all four seasons with all my senses and to have the freedom to live in environments where I can pick the ones that I like most and enjoy them to the maximum. Nature is just magical.