Changing of the Seasons – Changing of the Mind?

After a long summer, autumn is here now. This summer had had a slow start in the Netherlands, and when the summer holidays ended and school started again end of August (I know, really early – but that is 6 weeks of summer holidays for you…) many people said there had been no summer at all. But as soon as the kids sat in their classrooms, the weather switched to warm. Switched to hot even. We have had the hottest September since they started recording the weather (1901, if you are in for the numbers) – during the second week we even hit the 30 degrees Celsius. And so we had beach afternoons after school – my kids were even swimming in the North Sea, which they had not done the whole season – picnics in the park, water fights in the garden.

But it seems that at one point the weather realised it was behaving strangely. Temperatures have been going down slowly, and one can feel a difference in the air. We will still have 20 degrees today, but the mood has changed. Autumn is here.

So I spent some time in the park last Saturday, sitting on a bench on my own, looking at the trees and the grass and the sky. The leaves start to turn yellow, but I think that is more because of the dry weather we had (I have been watering my garden the last weeks, something I normally don’t have to do in September). The sky was still very blue – enhanced by my sun glasses.

I sat and looked and thought.

It seems that especially the change from summer to autumn touches something inside.  At least inside me. If affects me differently than the other seasons changes do. When winter changes into spring, I am all bouncy and happy, start working in the garden, dream of sitting outside in the sun. When spring changes into summer, I am busy hunting for my summer clothes and the sandals in the cellar, drag the hammock outside and eat salad a lot. During summer I hardly find time for writing blog posts, although I continue reading posts (luckily not everyone is as lazy as me). But when it gets cooler, the air smells of falling leaves and there is that special chill returning to the evening, I start getting philosophical. Suddenly my mind wakes up and starts asking questions. About life as such and my life in particular. About ageing and priorities. About what I am doing with my life.

Is it because the change to autumn already hints at the next change, the one to winter? Not that I don’t like winter – I think every season has its charms, although if I could, I would probably shorten winter a bit. (Maybe having three months of spring and autumn each, four months of summer and two months of winter?) But autumn and winter, they always remind us that nothing lasts forever. Of course after winter, there will be the next spring… but what if not? Would we still like it, embrace it?

As I said, autumn brings thoughts into my head, they tumble around like the leaves in the wind.

But as I look outside, the sun is edging around the neighbour’s house to greet me. It is a bit chilly this morning, but the sky is still blue, in the afternoon it will be pleasantly warm again. So let’s enjoy the beauty of autumn, while it lasts (I am sure we are in for enough of the grey-misty-cloudy-wet days too).

Summer was good. Now choose autumn. And be.

 

Thoughts on (Happy) Birthdays

Isn’t it strange how the perception of one’s birthday changes over the years?

Look at my little one: He has been waiting for his birthday ever since his older brother had his (three months). He has been planning his perfect day with a perfect cake (rainbow cake!) and presents and pizza and a party (a few days later). When the day came, he seemed to absorb all of it with an intensity only children have. He loved every minute of it. Loved his cake and his presents and bringing muffins to school to share with his class mates. He loved the attention he got at school. He would shout “It’s my birthday!” across the street to a neighbour. He prepared the party bags with care (thinking a lot about which coloured pencil to put into which bag, according to the colour preferences of his friends) and even made some for friends he could not invite (lack of space). His birthday was really the day. And he is so proud of being one year older now.

Now look at me: My birthday is shortly after his, and in a way I had been looking forward to it too. Not to officially being one year older (although it really is only one day…at a time), but to having a “special day”. Or a day to feel special. At the same time I felt a bit like this was a childish emotion. My mother said a few years ago that “birthdays do not matter so much any more as you get older” – that being meant as a sort of consolation for a birthday that was sucked up by dirty diapers and toddler’s needs. It did not make me fell any better though. Officially I agreed with her, laughing away any birthday ambitions, but secretly I thought: “But why can’t I have a special day anymore? Just because I am a mum myself now?”

Time has passed and now my kids are old enough to not only love their own birthdays but to want to make it a special day for me too. So little one made me a book with drawings and a story he wrote for me. And older one asked me what I would like to have as a present. Husband got me a cake and they all helped me eating it. They gave me a “morning off” so I could take my bike, ride to the beach and have a solitary walk there.

It was windy, almost stormy, but sunny. A friend of mine once said the North Sea was actually no proper sea since it was not blue but grey and muddy. On my birthday morning however it was looking rather  pretty – if not dazzling blue, it was at least blueish streaked with grey, with dramatic waves with foamy crests. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and the wind blew whisks of sand over the beach. I put the hood of my coat over my head (I foolishly had left my cosy hat at home, forgetting the rule that the wind always blows twice as hard at the beach as in our street), and for a while I just stood there and looked at the waves in front of me and at the thoughts in my head. I think I subconsciously sorted out life, universe and everything there on the beach, leaving me quite content and calm.

The rest of the day was partly birthday-ish and partly “normal”. Special things kept coming up. Ordering fancy food for dinner. Husband taking care of the bedtime rituals and the dishes.

In the evening both my sons asked me if I had a happy birthday. They really wanted to know, wanted to make sure I enjoyed “my” day as much as they had theirs.

And I did. I truly did.

Thank you family, for making me feel special.