Without a map or a compass, one could be fooled into believing that it is summer on a tropical island, when it is winter. The only signs of winter are the bare flame trees, which have lost their red leaves. All other vegetation flourishes throughout the year.
Escaping the European winter to the beaches of Thailand, Bali, the Caribbean, or the southern hemisphere, where it is summer, is not unusual. Hotels, airlines, and travel agents thrive on the urge to find sun during the winter months.
What sounds strange—and surely is for most—is to flee European summer for the winter in the southern part of the globe. The only other people I know that do something seemingly contrary and foolish are skiers seeking snow for training in the Andes.
But, contrary can be good. Mauritiun winter offers sunshine, warmth, lush vegetation—except the flame trees—and warm water: everything one wants in a “summer” vacation.
Many decry the onslaught of cold weather, but there’s something to be said about seasons.
I grew up in New England, which had four distinct season: Summer, Raking Leaves, Shoveling snow, and Mud. Germany (the part where I live) has less-defined seasons, with July often being as cold and wet as December. We used to joke about being able to discern summer, because the rain was warmer.
Just having been in Dubai, where the sunny weather ranges from temperatures in the 40-50s in the summer to 20-30s in the winter, I detected a sense of monotony. This is great for vacationers, who thrive on good weather, but rather boring for residents. I prefer raking leaves and complaining about the rain.
There is more than one way to learn if the seasons change. One could consult a calendar. Or, one could watch the weather. In some latitudes, the amount of daylight gives a clue.
For sharp-eyed followers of this worthless blog, a new photo on the title page pays tribute to the current season. Fall has arrived. (Duh).
This is self-evident in Vermont, where the photo was taken by a fool standing on a hill many years ago, because the foliage sends a colorful seasonal greeting.
Yesterday, I traveled six hours and went from summer to winter. I left Dubai, where the temperature was 35C and arrived in Frankfurt, where it was 5C. The forecast calls for the mercury to fall below freezing and snow is predicted to fall on elevations above 500 meters. Current temperatures are lower than those that we enjoyed at Christmas and the rain is colder. Only the grey skies are similar, but the festive cheer and presents are missing.
After five days of warm, sunny weather--as well as six hours of sunshine in the air--we traveled back in time in terms of temperature. We waved goodbye to the sun just before descending through the clouds during the approach to Frankfurt Airport.
No wonder Germans are so moody and dissatisfied...
Get used to it: it's Spring....
Besides, this tree is significant. I use it to judge the punctuality of seasons. It has blossomed every year around the end of April/beginning of May, except the past few years, when it blossomed in mid-April.
People have complained about a cold advent of Spring, but it has been far more usual than the past year or two. Because I have the anchor point of a tree in my garden, I can judge climate deviations and not have to rely on emotion.
_ I glanced at the clock and then noticed that it is still light outside. Days are getting longer, so summer might return again this year.
That is good news, especially on days when the temperature has dipped to minus 12 Celsius (10F for those that do not understand metric).
I recently read an article about life at Russia's northernmost monastery, that was also a part of the infamous Gulag. It lies above the Arctic Circle. I cannot understand how people survived, because I am cold even with the latest thermal clothing and I live in a warm house.
Spring is a sneaky little bugger. If one does not consciously pay attention each day--even each hour--it has come and gone like a fast-moving train (for those unfamiliar with the concept, check out trains in Japan, Germany, and France).
The first signs are birdsong in the early morning hours, when most are asleep. The first visible signs are snowdrops and crocuses. Next, bright yellow forsythia bushes are difficult for even the disinterested to overlook, but turn to green before one gets used to them. Daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips follow in rapid succession, with the first fruit trees hot on their heels. Colorful varieties of cherry provide the most blatant announcement of the new season, causing even the blase to cast a glance at recently bare limbs. Closer observers will notice incipient buds on all branches, soon to unfold slowly each day into life-giving leaves.
If one does not pay attention to nature's unfolding spectacle, one will wake up one day to a mass of green and have to seek flowers in gardens. Many will ask: what happened to spring? Nature, like a good conjurer, has tickled its multi-faceted, multi-colored splendor out of soil, water, and air.
Since this old fool lives on a hill, I get to watch the change in season march up the hill from the flatland, extending my period of enjoyment. The show gets better each year, perhaps because I pay more attention...
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.