When August Meant Something.

I grew up in the Northern Hemisphere. At our latitude we had distinct, clear, and staunchly reliable seasons. When I was young, words like August dripped with symbolism. August was strawberries, sweat, swimming, languishing, sensual, sleeping outside,  everything ripe and full of late summer anticipation. When I moved to Cape Town, I spent my first few months in the Southern Hemisphere baffled by the untethered new timeframes. Summer was December and sweaty August became nearly autumn. Months were rendered meaningless and time got away from me. I struggled to nail down the passing days in any coherent way.

In an attempt to remedy this nebulous new space, I started to adjust my measurements in subtle ways. I stopped using names of months and started solely referring to the seasons we were in, entering, or leaving. “Last summer I…”.

As I became more intimate with the place I lived, this approach became more subtle and nuanced still. Time began to pass relevent to events, some recurring, some not: Time of Moving Houses. Month of Fat Orange Caterpillars (sometimes) Squashed in the Road. This approach occasionally gets more personal. When the first winter rain comes I think the season should be called Time When We Had Just Met. And when the downpours start: Days on the Back of Your Motorbike. A few painful months marked Season of Moving Out.

Out walking today I saw the first blooming oxalis of the year. Small, pink, low to the ground, and delicate. It brought me rushing back to a year ago, walking with you and first discovering those beautiful flowers; carefully trying to wrap my head around their name when you told it to me. Ox-al-is.

This approach to time-keeping isn’t my invention. The Japanese used it and named whole eras after battles, shoguns, birds, and emperors. You should know that the system isn’t necessarily recurring or reliable. The Season of Refusing to Answer My Phone will hopefully not be repeated. Although, some aspects of this personal calendar can remind us of the natural world and possibly return us to its rhythms a bit more. During the Time of Blooming Jacarandas I found my favorite vintage bowl from Swaziland. The system itself marries the individual, political, and natural into an intensely intimate calendar. It lends structure and a personal parallel to the global events happening all around, all the time. I think now, during Months of Wrecked Japan and Brand-New North Africa how relevant and personal seasons are. The ways in which we mark the passing afternoons is possibly only way we lend order, meaning, and measure to our quick lives on this planet as we careen towards our inevitable expiration.

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3 thoughts on “When August Meant Something.

  1. I too mark the changes of the year by the only true consistency of this earth, that of natures wristwatch. This year, or should I say years, have been so erratic that the only way that I know time has passed is for some outside force to interject my senses. This spring, by some random twist of fate, has carried me back to the east and I have landed in a place of my childhood. The actual birthplace of our nation, and the one place that I can remember feeling true nostalgia. Not so much for learning the history our founding fathers and being in the presence of the declaration. But for my own history, my own creation of memory and the invaluable lessons of life taught to me by my stepmother. Even though she has passed, when I see and smell the thousands of blossoming trees lining the streets o Philadelphia, I know spring is here. Summer is not far, and the 4th of July even closer. When we would go to Longwood Gardens and chat about botanicals then watch a magnificent fireworks display set to patriotic fair. Sight, smell, touch, taste and listening to almost anything will always provide the best reality check of all, even if reality only exists in memory.

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