And today is another beautiful spring day. Walking around in a t-shirt (maybe being a little over confident of the sun) I found myself thinking about how today was the perfect day to go hunting for Easter eggs. But of course we don't do Easter in spring here - we do it in Autumn just as the weather is getting grimmer and the winter winds are starting.
It's crazy stuff, after all Eostre was the goddess of spring, and the Christian celebration is supposed to be about rebirth. On the first warm spring days like today I feel like celebrating all those things - but in March/April - it's all academic.
And our Christmas is even more ridiculous. Christmas is a profoundly wintery event: It’s holly, puddings, candles, yule logs and all those reworkings of pre-Christian Winter solstice celebrations (Yule, Natalis Solis Invicti, Saturnalia).
And all these things are beautiful on the coldest, shortest, darkest day of the year…Christmas is supposed to be a little twinkling light in a dark cold place.
But we celebrate it right in the middle of summer. Hot turkey dinners, sweaty tinsel and fake snow in the heat and dust. It’s a little sad...we should be dancing around maypoles instead.
Melbournes seasons, based on writing of Dr. Beth Gott of the School of Biological Sciences, Monash University.
Click image to see larger
I'm not saying we should do the whole Christmas in July thing- but I think it's a shame. It's a shame because when we have a beautiful spring day like today - we have no way of celebrating it.
And I also wonder whether this serves to increase our sense of disconnection from the landscape and the ecological systems that we exist within.
When the people who established the city of Melbourne arrived, they bought with them the Roman calendar, their northern celebrations, and a year which is divided into four seasons - along with their ideas about the landscape and how it works. Those of us who still live here have inherited all of these things.
How many of us still think of winter as a time of dormancy, and summer as a time of growth and life, rather than something closer to the opposite? Or else think of wild fire as a purely destructive force, rather than a process which brings life and regeneration, without which many fragile ecosystems would die?
The Wurundjeri people certainly didn't have a 4 season calendar; they based their seasons on the local weather conditions, and the behaviour of plants and animals. I've drawn up a (possible/approximate) Wurundjeri calendar above, alongside the traditional Roman seasons, and a seasonal calendar created by researches looking at the climate and ecosystem of the Upper Yarra. Makes for interesting comparison.
Would we be less disconnected from our environment if we had seasons that were more responsive to the local ecosystem? What would happen if we didn't think about the seasons as Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter - but as something like Pre-spring, True Spring, High Summer, Dry Summer (Old man summer), Autumn and Winter?
And if, instead of being fixed to the climatic conditions of far off European landscapes, those six seasons were linked to the markers of actual seasonal changes as they happen here - like summer grasses flowering, the appearance of kangaroo apples or of tadpoles spawning in the Yarra?
(images on right: Chocolate bilby (the local easter bunny), and Christmas on Bondi Beach)
Labels: philosophies + opinions