Monday, 6 October 2014

Wrestling Seasons
As we pass the equinox, days and nights are the same length and summer and winter pass each other across the hemispheres. This makes me sit up and take notice of time, and it makes me think about what, specifically, I should be noticing before I will miss having noticed it.

In the wake of my recent reflection on phenology, the observation of the change in plants and animals over seasons—and on my attempt to stockpile sustaining phenological moments to help layer in comforting seasonal emotions to offset less comfortable ones—I have been reconstructing for myself one of the favorite stories of my childhood about the struggle between summer and winter. 

I do not properly know the origins of this story. My father told it to me, and I remember him calling it a story of the people who live in the middle of North America. The story recounts a long struggle (I remember it as a leg wrestling struggle) between the personifications of the spirits of the warm season and the spirit of the cold season. As I recall, there is a lot at stake for the people in the place where they are fighting—their crops and their comfort—but I also remember the story of the long struggle being both epic but also well supported: not carnage, but steady and well matched engagement. And the engagement goes on so long that it is decided that one of them does not win, but rather that half will govern one part of the year, and this is one of the origin stories of the seasons.

As I think about the relationship between the seasons—and as the popular media grapples with the instability of the polar vortex, and what it might mean to adapt our culture to seasons that do not act as our stories have prepared us to expect—I keep imagining summer and winter wrapping their legs and holding shoulders. I imagine the conversations they have. Weather conversations are such a trope of doldrums, but my meteorologist office neighbor has revised my understanding of that, and their conversations that play out in my mind are compelling and perhaps revealing.

Imagining them, I want to know more about what this story told people, and to honor what it made them explore--but I am also happy I have explored my imagination of it in the weeks since my last post on seasons. It has reminded me how much of the function of stories is not just to tell us something, but to get us to notice what it might be like.

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