By Janice Lindsay, Contributing Writer
As you read this, summer might be here or almost, but my summer began on Tuesday afternoon, May 5, around 5 p.m. That’s when I saw my first hummingbird of the season. Never mind that the weather was cold and cloudy with snow in the forecast. In my book of seasons, summer starts whenever hummers arrive.
Equinoxes and solstices may define official changes to summer, fall, winter, and spring. But we can each possess our own private inner seasons, and we can define them in any way we want.
My six seasons are summer, fall, Christmas, winter, March, and spring.
Summer: While we New Englanders struggle through winter snow and ice, I imagine hummers soaking up South American sun. They bring that warmth with them. I am ready, even if the weather isn’t. First, a male. Then maybe another male. Immediately they start arguing about who has rights to my feeder. Females arrive. The fight is on. Ruby-throated hummingbirds, the only kind we have in New England, are territorial — aerial acrobats whose combative buzzing and humming fill the summer air.
Fall: When we were children, school started the day after Labor Day. For me, this is still the first day of fall. (Nobody asked me, but it’s not right to start classes in August, while we put the finishing touches on summer.) Whether starting public school, college, or adult education classes, fall offers new projects, new books, new experiences, new notebooks to fill with new ideas.
Christmas: My fall lasts until the first Sunday of Advent, the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Christmas is its own season, with its special music, warm colors and glitter, inviting fragrances, family traditions, messages of hope. On the first Sunday of Advent, I bring out the old crèche that I bought for our first Christmas as a married couple. I add a few other decorations on each Sunday before Christmas. After Christmas, I start to put things away. By January 6, the twelfth day of Christmas, the season is over.
Winter begins on January 7. We probably already have snow, and we certainly have cold, but it has not been winter for me. I suppose that now, as I write, I should extol winter’s beauty — all that whiteness and clean, refreshing, crisp air. But frankly, I’m not in the mood. I’m too busy enjoying summer, my favorite season.
March: My fifth season. March isn’t winter and it isn’t spring. Daylight hours lengthen, but the air is too chilly for me. March is mud. March is impatience, a feeling of “enough already,” an eagerness for that first spring day when the breeze brings no icy bite. In March, I listen for red-winged blackbirds, the first travelers to arrive from the south. (Robins often get credit for this, but they’re not reliable harbingers because some robins winter here.) But even when I hear redwings, it’s not yet my spring.
Spring starts when I hear the first spring peepers, usually around April 10. The male peepers don’t care that they lift my cold-weary spirits. They’re just doing what they do, singing each night for a couple of weeks to attract a lady-love. But they cheer me.
My spring is short, from early April to early May. But that’s fine. It means that summer is my longest season.
Other people probably have different seasons from mine. Our own true seasons are not defined by weather or calendar, but by something in our hearts that whispers, “Now. It’s time.”