Tuesday, 14 March 2017

The Seasons - Summer, Autumn, Winter & Spring

For the first time, in 2016, I learned how to slow down and actually look around me. I finally had the time and the inclination. I noticed the seasons and the changing of the year and I loved it.

Spring invariably marches into Summer with lengthening days and trees and bushes and flowers continuing to burst into leaf and flower before the inevitable decline of Autumn. But I've never really noticed the changes, not really. But in 2016, for the first time, I had the time to notice the passing of the year.

Here we are, on the doorstep of Spring, and I'm thinking back to those lazy sunny days of Summer and the first leaves turning that says quite eloquently that time is passing.

I signed up to do the 1 Million Steps Challenge to raise money for Diabetes UK in June and that would guarantee that I was out and about between July-September, the three months of the Challenge. This encouraged me to get out and explore my local neighbourhood and find out more about the area I've lived in for 25 years.

I roamed around Tooting Common and found new routes to get there and different bits to explore, trekked up the hill of Streatham Common to relax and marvel in the Rookery's gardens, enjoy the plants and flowers and wonder what they look like in Autumn. I walked down streets I'd never set foot on just to see where they might lead and what might be at the end. I discovered Brixton Windmill and walked to Dulwich Picture Gallery. There's so much to see within an hour's walk of where I live. And all under the glorious sunshine of Summer 2016.

I was so busy going out and exploring that I didn't have time to do things that I'd planned to do.

Then, suddenly it was September and I flew off to Madrid and the hot sun of Spain. Walking through the lovely El Retiro park in the middle of Madrid brought Autumn home to me since it was more advanced in Spain than at home. Trees covered in leaves turning brown and gold and red under the glorious blue sky and temperatures in the mid 30s. I hadn't really noticed the changing of the season at home but here it was, a prediction of what was to come.

It's lovely how a classic English Summer seems like it'll never end, a series of endless blue skies and fluffy white clouds meandering across the sky and then you turn round one day and notice that the temperature's dropped, that the leaves don't look as green and thriving as they did and the days shorten. It's always a surprise even though it happens every year. And last year I was able to enjoy it.

Walking on the Common and seeing the blackberry bushes laden, the hips and hawes ripening and deepening in colour, the increased activity of the birds and squirrels as they scampered around. Then the leaves browning, some trees turning before others and, noticeably, chestnuts littering the ground, the nuts crashing out of their shells and littering the paths under trees. That's when you see the squirrels really scampering.

Shorts and short-sleeved shirts were replaced by longs and by jackets to keep the arms warm but I still explored the Common, seeing different birds appear at the lake, some for a few days and others for a few weeks on their migrations to more exotic places. The swans still sailed serene, the lords of the lake. And piles of leaves started appearing under trees and the dogs joyfully leaping into them and making a fuss because... leaves.

One day it got a bit blustery as I wandered and I was caught in a storm of leaves and I just stood there with a stupid grin on my face. I was in the middle of a massive leaf fall whipped up by the breezes to make them swirl around me. That was magical. I felt so lucky to experience that, something that probably happens all the time but I'd never been in the right place at the right time before. It was a gift to help me open my eyes.

Some trees dropped their leaves sooner than others, and some keep tight hold of their last remaining leaves, brown and withered, even now. The colours of the leaves have been marvellous, so many colours brightening the Commons as the days grew shorter. It happens every year but I've never really noticed it before. I've been too busy getting from A to B and not really looked around me. I've finally had the time to look and I like what I see.

Winter wasn't too cold this year but I value the day the temperature dropped between Christmas and New Year and I went over to Tooting Common to check on the swans and found the lake half frozen. The swans were fine but I couldn't help a chuckle as the seagulls tried to walk on the ice and slipped onto their bums. Some things are funny.

No scenes of expanses of white grassland and trees weighed down with snow but there's always another winter around the corner.

I've always been pleased that I live in a country with four seasons - I want Summer to be hot and sunny and Winter to be cold and snowy. It doesn't often work out that way but I can hope. I'm really looking forward to Spring this year, to see Spring emerge as trees start budding and bushes turn green again. There's something delicious about that fresh, new green of new leaves shouting to the word that it's their turn now.

I wonder what miracles I'll see as I wander the Commons. I've already seen baby goose chicks paddling in the lake and hope to see baby squirrels taking their first scamper as buds erupt. It's marvellous to see the buds on the trees, some already starting to open with that new green and others of the international variety with blossom covering the boughs. It won't be long until the blossom blows off some trees like a late shower of snow.

I need to learn how to 'look' better, to see the creatures in the undergrowth as they emerge and explore. I'm really looking forward to this year, to see and appreciate the changes I'll witness. The season is changing again...

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