Perhaps I shouldn’t listen to music while I run. But here’s the thing: I work in a library, and then at home I spend an hour or two quietly writing. I don’t get a lot of time for listening to music, and I really like music, so poking the earbuds in and turning up the tunes is a great way to relax and clear my head while I’m laboring up the road. But because of work and writing, I also don’t get to spend a lot of time outdoors, experiencing nature and the elements, which is at least ironic for someone writing about the seasons and how they affect us.
On Saturday morning, a sunny, warm morning with the humidity just beginning to climb, I was about a mile up Telegraph Road when through the music playing in my head I heard a strange noise. I paused and took the earbuds out. Just to my left stood a thick copse of small trees, through which a brisk wind was rustling. The leaves danced and the trees bowed slightly, and I stood and watched for a moment. Of course the breeze had been blowing all along, but I scarcely noticed until the rustling in the trees made it apparent. After a few minutes I ran on, feeling strangely enriched.
Almost everyone, when asked, can name a favorite season. For most people, it is either spring or autumn, and when pressed to explain, you will learn that it is usually the transition into that season that they most cherish: the first warm days of spring, the first chilly days of autumn, when the heat of summer finally begins to abate. It is change we appreciate. I think that it feels like anything is possible in a time of change.
Yes, there are people (you meet them at work, usually) who will tell you they hate change. New processes, new rules, new procedures. But this is something different. A change in your surroundings, in the environment. Let’s get out the sweaters, let’s cook a pot of soup, let’s plan a vacation. The weather is changing.
There is a quote I use in the introduction to The Varied God. It comes, as many quotes do, from Mark Twain. In comparing the climate of New England to that of California, he writes that ‘no land without four clearly defined seasons can be really beautiful.’ It’s a long quote, and I won’t give it all here, but he concludes that ‘change is the handmaiden nature requires to do her miracles with.’ Mark Twain was from Missouri, and so am I, so I know what he means. But there are millions of people from other areas where there are four seasons who will sympathize. There are also millions of people living in such areas who cannot wait to retire to Florida or Nevada to escape the inevitability of winter weather. I often wonder if these are the same people who hate change at work.
There is something about a wind that has always symbolized change. The phrase ‘winds of change’ is an oft-used cliche. There are winds of change songs and essays and book titles: people cite the winds of change sweeping the land in speeches both fiery and profound. The fact is, a wind usually does indicate some kind of change. Winds are the leading edge of high or low pressure patterns that are bringing some kind of change, warmer weather, hotter weather, rain or snow. Winds do change things–that’s what makes the cliche so compelling, so that no matter how often someone refers to the winds of change, we all know what they mean.
On the Saturday morning I am talking about, the wind was bringing a warm front and a hot, muggy weekend. Nothing much to like there, even if the moment of listening to the wind in the trees was mesmerizing. I almost missed it, listening to music while I ran, and I wonder if I should leave the earbuds at home from now on. Sometimes reliving one short moment, such as standing by the roadside and listening to the wind in the trees, can make whatever follows more bearable. We all need more moments like that.