Learning to appreciate the lessons of all seasons
by Jennifer Lendvai-Lintner
[Image description: The author's 18-month-old daughter Hilde is bundled for the cold in a puffy winter bunting. It's black with white polka dots. Hilde's face looks less than thrilled. She is lying on a play mat with a toy visible in the upper right corner.]
In 2015 I decided I was done with cold weather. Being cooped up in the house with two under five, struggling with layers, warming the car, jackets on to get to the car, jackets off to get into carseats, jackets back on to walk into wherever we were going… all this rigamarole was not for me. That winter (and the winter before) we were iced in for months. A few feet of snow was followed by icy rain that froze our backyard into a solid, arctic tundra. The formidable layer of ice also made the sidewalks in my neighborhood impassible. Even if we bundled up to brave the elements, there wasn’t anywhere we could safely go. This frigid season I could do without. Surely, a warmer climate would be better. My husband Géza and I were open to relocating anywhere up or down the eastern seaboard, and I was rooting that we go SOUTH. Soon it would prove to be a ‘careful what you wish for’ scenario. When an opportunity did present itself, it was miraculously in a much more temperate climate. It was also on the other side of the country.
Southern California living is pretty grand for a young family. Sitting at the playground mid-January with my feet in warm sand was quite a treat. No longer cooped up, we could walk, bike, and explore outdoors year-round. Getting outside has always been a cure-all for me, so southern California was a dream.
Though I enjoyed this mom-friendly climate, I noticed a curious side effect. This eternal summer lacked the indicators I recognized, and it was throwing me off. My first autumn in the San Fernando Valley, I couldn’t bring myself to put out any fall decor. For five years, I stubbornly refused to pick apples, a beloved fall tradition. For me, that autumnal activity called for a sweater and scarf, a steaming beverage in hand. I couldn’t engage in it wearing a tank top and sunscreen while sweltering in 90-degree heat; it just seemed wrong.
Despite loving elements of this sunny lifestyle, I hadn’t anticipated how ingrained the seasons as I knew them were to my bearings. I found it difficult to acclimate without the distinct natural rhythms I had known all my life. To this northerner, the Southern California variety were too muted by comparison. Raised on seasons that were loud and distinct like a marching band, I found myself missing the cues to which I was accustomed. In California, the months blended together beautifully smooth and mellow like notes from a string quartet. I found I yearned for the cacophony.
This shouldn’t have surprised me. After all, I know I’m a person who tends to get stuck thinking circumstances, usually the tough ones, will last forever. Thankfully, life isn’t like that. It’s not all soft spring, lazy summer or spectacular autumn blazing, and so it’s not all harsh winter, either. Life has figurative seasons—some peaceful and easy, some grueling, and most landing somewhere in between. Sometimes we’ll have to bundle up, bear the cold, maybe hibernate for a little while, but that won’t last forever. On a fundamental level, the literal seasons reassure me of life’s natural ebb and flow.
Now that we’ve relocated back east, I’ve found a true appreciation for every season—even austere winter and all its irksome layers. This year I’ve been an eager witness to those changes outside my windows. The woods that back my home vividly differentiate the year’s intervals. Verdant foliage of established summer with a spark gave way to burnished autumn. The woods withered to brown as they succumbed to winter, branches a gnarled tangle scratching against a bleak sky. I relished how even in bitter winter there were days when quiet snow blanketed the woods in ethereal white. Today, on the brink of spring, buds are just beginning to peek, reddish and palest green beacons of sunny days ahead. Now there’s a sense of accomplishment that comes with spring because it feels earned.
I’ve come to appreciate each season for what it is. There’s beauty and purpose in each. I guess I also have to accept that, at least when it comes to seasons, I’m clearly a crashing cymbals kind of girl.