There is a feeling held in the atmosphere of this time of year that I see as the reverse of, though closely kindred to, the green, burgeoning quality of early spring. A soft sadness that summer is coming to a close, and a growing gladness that autumn, with gradually longer nights and crisp mornings, is on her way. I can’t help being wistful, holding this sadness–gladness close.
The sadness is surprising, considering how badly summer treats me. The heat drains me of energy, and the warm, short nights often lead to poor quality sleep, so as the season progresses I feel worse and worse. (Doing anything in January and February is a struggle.) And then I begin to long for autumn, for invigorating breezes, and days cool enough for cardigans. For boots and scarves and coats. I do love autumn. I love the decent into the darker half of the year. But … there is still something about the passing of summer that fills me with sorrow and regret.
I think it is because summer is traditionally the time when things are supposed to happen. When you are supposed to have a more substantial bodily immersion in the world. It is the time for holidays at the beach, swimming and sunbathing, picnics and walks—essentially, for pleasure, for being in the world.
I always have plans for summer: to spend much more time outside, to make the most of the sunshine, to work more on art … And of course those things rarely happen. Because of my lack of energy, yes, but also because I find the weather is often too hot to be outside. Or it is raining. And so summer after summer has passed me by, seemingly wasted.
This summer has been a particularly hot one, with temperatures well above average, and breaking records (and it scares me that this is becoming the norm). Though thankfully, each heatwave has been followed by a few cooler days of rain and mist, so this year, we’ve been lucky. Things have remained green, instead of drying to tinders, and the bushfire threat has not been substantial in my part of the state—a great relief.
Yet despite the heat, the discomfort, the lethargy, I still feel what I feel at this time of year. I mourn summer’s passing, lament the fall from the height of the solstice, away from the green lushness, back to our dark origins, dry leaves underfoot.
Another summer gone.
This feeling of sadness mingled with gladness, a bittersweet melancholy, is a beguiling one that I wouldn’t be without. But it feels strangely unfinished, open and frayed at the ends, and I’d like to be able to weave it into something useful, some piece of creative work that enables me to finally catch hold of it, to finally be embodied at this cusp of the seasons.
Yet as I wrote in my notebook not so long ago, as I was accumulating ideas for a story: If it is the journey, not the destination, then it is the longing, not the attainment.
Much like the Welsh concept of hiraeth, some things are unattainable, forever just out of reach. The beauty is in the feeling of longing itself, the openness and wildness of something that cannot be contained or defined, and remains a mystery, even when we are granted precious glimpses of it.
I think, perhaps, that it is in such feelings that poetry is born.