Through my own eyes

Other people’s words about … the seasons

I arrived in England on a grey March day in 2009. The Underground journey from Heathrow to Mile End took me through the western boroughs of London: tiled roofs and chimney pots in neat rows and the clouds as dark as oyster shells, rain falling from them in a barely perceptible mist. The city was exactly as I had expected to find it. Over the next weeks, daffodils bloomed, people started shedding their heavy coats, and my walk to work became greener by the day. Spring was arriving.

From ‘The Little Library Year’
by Kate Young

In ‘The Little Library Year’, a follow-up cookbook to her first cookbook, ‘The Little Library Cookbook’, Kate Young celebrates England and its seasons. Having been born in England myself, and having spent a year living there when I was nine and another year when I was fourteen, as well as having made several return visits in the first couple of decades of my adult life, I understand the joy Young finds in noting the distinctions between each of the seasons in England: the astonishing green of new growth in spring; the long, balmy days of summer; the crisp mornings and falling leaves of autumn; the bleak, dark, short days of winter.

First week of June: Groundsel flowers on the dune, Taperoo Beach

But unlike Young, I feel more attuned to the seasons in my adopted home country, Australia, which I moved to when I was three years old: the country I will, by choice, live in for the rest of my life. The statement that the seasons are less distinct here — a statement that Young is not the first person to make, let me hasten to add — troubles me. The seasons here are only less distinct if you choose to see them through Western/European eyes. If you see them through Australian eyes, and particularly through the eyes of a person indigenous to, or acutely at home with, this country, you will observe seasons that are very distinct from each other, though not in the same way as they are in England.

Last weeks of May: Grasstree in flower in the Aldinga Scrub

I’ve written a little on this before, here. While I don’t wish to repeat myself, and while I certainly don’t wish to criticise a fellow Australian writer (whose writing, and recipes, I love), I think it’s important to maintain an awareness of the lens through which we see and experience the world we live in. What we expect to see can so easily colour what we actually see.

Last week of May: High tide at Aldinga Beach at evening

This year, 2020, began in Australia with a fiercely hot summer that culminated in horrific bushfires, the kind that we have never experienced before, the kind that create their own weather system, their own tragic season of burning and death. Since then, the bushfires have gone out, at least for now, and the seasons have moved on. Here in South Australia, the heat has cooled, the days have shortened, rain has fallen, grass has turned green once more, and — particularly in the last week or so — frosts have bloomed over the land overnight.

First week of June: Winter sea under the jetty, Largs Bay

This year, in the enforced shutdown of the coronavirus pandemic, in a time when human activity has been quieter than usual, I have found myself even more aware than I usually am of the cycle of the days, the weeks, the months, the passing of the year. March, April, May and June have all been months that have been different from each other, in both subtle and distinctive ways, whether through a change in temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind direction, or the height of the sun and the moon.

First week of June: Still waters at North Haven, near the breakwater

Young writes: Throughout my first year [in England] — gloriously bright and beautiful spring, the blisteringly hot and heavy summer, the night that the leaves started to fall from the trees — I found it impossible not to be changed by the seasons. I, too, here in Australia, find it impossible not to be changed by the seasons. I am grateful to see them, and to document them with photographs like the ones that dot today’s post.

I try, always, to move through the world — my world, the one I live in — seeing it as it is. It is a lifelong project, and one I will never grow tired of.

First week of June: Lizzy the garden cat, soaking up the winter sun

Stop and smell the roses

Native plants and vegetation are my passion.
(We all know that.)
So you won’t be surprised when I say I haven’t always been the hugest fan of roses.
They’re not native to Australia.
Sometimes they seem overblown to me, and showy — blowsy, even.
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But once a year, the rose bushes outside my local library put on quite a show.
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Somehow, these roses please even my curmudgeonly spirit.
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They are, simply, quite lovely.
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They bring joy, not just into my day …
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but into my very soul.

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I think I’m slowly joining the rose-lover’s world …

Abundance

Our garden down south originally had several patches of arum lilies.
Also called calla lilies, these flowers are sometimes thought to symbolise death. They’re considered a toxic weed in South Australia, so I ended up reducing my lilies to one small, protected patch.
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They spring up during the mid-winter rains, when the grass is long and wet and green, and the soil damp and crumbly — reminding me not of death, but of life.
Of growth.
Of abundance.


I’m happy to let them grow in that small patch, ready for picking and putting in a vase — tall, elegant and lush.

Growth

In the garden in our house just north of the city,
the bushes we planted when we first moved here eight years ago
have sprouted and grown and spread.
It’s a messy, weedy, often untended garden.
But it’s true to our dream:
a garden of plants almost exclusively native to our area.

As spring slowly approaches, it fills me with delight.

An ending and a beginning

Around Anzac Day here in South Australia, the daily temperature dips, the skies cloud over and the days shorten.

Autumn! It’s arrived.

Australian native trees are mostly evergreens, so any show of red or golden leaves comes from exotic trees. Autumn can seem a little … subdued. Gloomy. Like a dying away.

But not quite. A couple of weeks ago, in my garden, I noticed this:

Buds.

There will be flowers again soon.

The last spring colours: pinks and blues

— November —

Colour comes in two waves at the end of spring …

…pink …

… and blue.

Note:
The first flower pictured is the native geranium (pelargonium australe). For more information, click here.
The second flower pictured is a thick-leaved fan flower (scaevola crassifolia). For more information, check out this lovely site. (You’ll need to scroll down a little to find the fan flower.)