Here in Chicago, the first whispers of summer are upon us. The days are occasionally warm enough to step out into the great outdoors wearing nothing but a t-shirt and shorts, the winds are no longer chillingly biting but instead provide a welcome refreshing breeze. Most of all, it feels good to step outside and exist in the world beyond your doors and windows.
I (unlike most people I'd assume) actually quite like winter. I don't mind the cold, it makes me feel invigorated and full of energy. After all, the best way to stay warm is to harness the energy stored inside your body and convert it straight to heat. I don't mind the shorter days - after all I wrote 1000 or so words about why I love the night and I'll happily take more of it. I don't even mind the wind and the snow. Living in a major city and not driving definitely helps with that, and on very windy days I think more about airbending than about how much my face hurts.
I admit, I do have some grievances with winter. Everybody does. Wearing heavy jackets everywhere you go is kind of an annoyance, mainly because storing it indoors becomes an issue if you go from place to place to place. I really dislike wearing gloves because it makes it harder to access my pockets and use my phone, but I have no choice because my hands get cold very quickly. On the whole, however, winter and I get along quite well and every year I look forward to the first snowfalls and the holiday season.
In the two cities I've lived in (Toronto and Chicago), and what I assume likely holds for other northern North American cities, winters can be pretty brutal. There's yearly epidemics of seasonal affective disorder (aptly shortened to SAD), people stay indoors, and generally life slows down a little bit. But, as they say, energy cannot be created or destroyed and all of that pent up energy is released during the summer. They say Chicago may not be the best city in the world, but it is arguably the best summer city in the world.
Suddenly the winds off the lakes and the oceans turn from a liability into the city's best asset. People organize events every single weekend to compensate for the semi-hibernation they underwent when the days were short and the nights were long. The city bursts at the seams from the electric energy coursing through it, and you can feel the difference just walking through the streets.
I think this is why I'd always want to live in a four season city. Something that has a nice summer, yes, but also a real proper winter. One cold enough to remind us puny humans of our the might of nature. That despite all of our technology and prowess, nature will not bend to our petty whims and demands her respect as she calls forth the snowy winds of the north. Only in a city with this climate does the summer truly stand out, and feel special.
I imagine that places that are famous for their yearround livable weather like Miami or Southen California feel very different. Yes it's true that outdoor fun can be had at any time (barring their own unique weather concerns like tornados and floods) but there is no anticipation for summer or dread for winter. No cycle of the build up and release of potential energy driving the summertime highs into the stratosphere. When the weather is always good, it never is. Something is missing.
It's wonderful to see how the changing of the seasons mark the passage of time as well. It's amazing how perfect the year is as a length of time. Long enough that many changes, big changes even, can happen in our lives. I personally can't believe how much has changed for me over the past year and I hope whoever is reading this can relate.
The other great thing thing is that a year is short enough that I can, for the most part, recall all the big events of my past 12 months fairly clearly. And what makes them especially salient is recalling how each one went with its own season.
My first Chicago winter, spent exploring the city and settling in while bundled up in my thick winter coat. The exciting autumn; the changing of the leaves brought with it quite a lot of changes for me as well, and I was lucky to have them occur in a season with such wonderful weather. The frantic summer spent spreading ourselves thin over a few too many tasks, running from place to place while trying to hide from the sweltering heat. And, of course, my final Toronto spring and one of the best springs of my life since I'd just graduated and was looking forward to my first small tastes of freedom.
Much like studying while chewing gum builds memorable associations in your brain that increase recall, living life in each different season gives it so much flavour. I love that each of these times are not just associated with people and a place, but also the warmth of the sun on my skin and the types of clothes I was able to wear and the very energy of the city itself.
Personally I had an absolutely wonderful beginning of summer last year. I was leaving Toronto and had absolutely zero obligations so I filled my weeks with all manner of fun activities and friends. It wasn't until recently when the first hints of summer arrived in Chicago. I was walking around without a jacket for the first time in months, biking without gloves, when it suddenly hit me how nostalgic I was feelings. It wasn't for any specific person or place but just the energy I missed from last summer.
I love that this was an experience I was able to have only because of the changing of the seasons and the sensations each one brings. I hope that one day I may feel similarly about my Chicago winter or my many future summers.