Four Seasons Seattle
Yes, we have them.
Happy autumn to all. I always look forward to the cooling days of fall, to being able to wear a different set of clothes (always important for a man of my sartorial splendor), and to the beautiful colors that grace our trees. But I am no bigger fan of fall than of any of the other seasons, though I am a bit partial to spring and all our seasons have their merits and detractions.
Curiously, or so I think, I have a good friend who argues that Seattle does not have four seasons. She bases her reasoning on her upbringing in Iowa and its distinct seasonality. In winter, she was unpleasantly cold, in summer, unpleasantly hot and humid, and then she had spring and fall. To her, Seattle’s lack of too hot and too cold means that our fair city has only way-too-long spring and fall.
I strongly disagree. Our seasons may not be as distinct as my pal’s childhood seasons—which even she admitted could be defined as miserable, spring, miserable, autumn—but you can certainly distinguish ours.
Winter - Short days, in the pre-Covid era, when my wife worked away from home, she disappeared to and returned from work in darkness. Gray days, when the light of the sky and air blend together and the world seems flatter. Sunny days, when light cuts through the leafless trees in our yard and illuminates our house (and highlights where we haven’t dusted). Squeaky mornings, when the unctuous call of bald eagles from nearby trees becomes our alarm clock. Too cold fingers and toes on my weekly hand cycle ride. The occasional snow fall, dampening sound yet also opening up the ecosystem by revealing the tracks of animals that I don’t see without the amanuensis of snow. Hot chocolate and popcorn, our favorite revival food after a long urban walk. Winter is also about the night sky and the wonderful constellations of the Pleiades (the Seven Sisters or Subaru (in Japanese)), and Orion, the great hunter of the night.
Spring - Tempestuous weather, chances of snow, rain, fog, mizzle, drizzle, and sunbreaks make life more interesting, and leads to more decisions about what to wear while walking, hiking, and biking. Color returns as flowers begin to pop open, bringing the buzzing of early pollinators. Singing returns with birds announcing their fertility potential. New shades of green appear in what looks like internal lighting of incipient foliage. (Of course, we benefit by having relatively mild weather (low temps and copious rain) in our winters, which contributes to the luscious growth of our conifers.) Spring is also a time when south migrating Canada geese ink the sky with their V-line skeins, a sure sign that change is afoot, or on-wing, in this situation.
Summer - Hot days return, prompting plants to sprout and grow and thrive, and our house disappears from the street, hidden by the small forest in the front yard. Long days return and I can get up very early to run or bike and go to sleep with light still in the sky. Brown lawns return and I wonder again at the perverse nature of our climate that the grass goes dormant and dismal at the time of year people most often like to be on it (and, in my mind, waste water on it). Cragged peaks return as the snow melts off the mountains and the rim of white that surrounds us morphs to the greens and grays of forest and rocky summits. Summer also means local produce and relishing mountain huckleberries and blueberries, flavorful tomatoes, basketball-sized heads of lettuce, our yard’s golden raspberries, and peas so sweet they could be labeled candy.
Fall - Brisk temperatures and my stylish mien prompt much rejoicing from all who encounter me! As chlorophyll breaks down with cooler temperatures and shorter days (trees certainly recognize seasons), honey-, mustard-, mahogany-, and brick-colored leaves begin to bless the region with warm hues. The drying leaves result in some of my favorite fall sounds—crunch, crackle, and rasp—when I bike through the accumulations of foliage on streets. Fall also is the time of spiders, or at least, that’s when many of us notice them, particularly orb weavers and giant house spiders, the former of which build their beautiful and intricate webs, which often dance the light of a dewy morn.
Smoke - Sadly, we seem to have acquired a fifth season, when fires dirty the air, cause itchy throats and eyes, and produced tomato sunsets. I don’t think Iowa can make this claim.
I always look forward to the change in seasons. Each is time of renewal as the natural world adapts to the new temperatures, amount of daylight, and migrating animals. The seasonal renewals also play into my passion of getting outside and observing; it’s always a thrill to see the first leaves of spring, the arrival of returning migrants such as varied thrushes, and the tracks of neighborhood animals in snow. It is these rhythms of the season that contribute to keeping my life interesting and full.
I’d love to learn about your thoughts on seasons, in Seattle and elsewhere. Please feel free to share them in the comments.
Word of the Week - Amanuensis - A literary assistant, one who copies text. From the classical Latin āmanuēnsis secretary, clerk < ā manū secretary (short for servus ā manū slave from the hand), from the OED. Merriam-Webster adds that “the noun manu, meaning "hand," gave us words such as manuscript, which originally referred to a document written or typed by hand.”
Still not too late (assuming you read this the day it arrives in your inbox) to head over to Poulsbo for my reading tonight at 7pm. Put on by Liberty Bay Books.