I fear that because of my NDD, I am not in touch with the seasons.
Seasonal living comes in degrees – six degrees of separation!
- First Degree: Living off the land
- Second Degree: Making major changes in your lifestyle depending on the season
- Third Degree: Making optional changes in your lifestyle depending on the season
- Fourth Degree: Preparing for, noticing and acting upon seasonal changes
- Fifth Degree: Seasonal changes sneak up on you, and you adapt after the fact
- Sixth Degree: You don’t even notice the weather, much less the seasons!
I would place myself somewhere on the bottom end of the scale, as you will see.
First Degree: Living off the land
This belongs to people who work in farming, ranching or forestry, or those who live off the grid. You are entirely dependent on climate and weather for all of your daily needs and long-term survival. Yes, we all are, but you are the ones who feel a direct and immediate impact. I can’t imagine what it feels like to have a crop fail or to have a market crash and not be able to get a good price for your calves or your lentils. Likewise, I have never experienced a drought that affected me personally. I have lived on the prairies and known farming families, and I admire people who make a go of it. I am not sure if this way of life is dying out (family farms) or growing (preppers and people who want to reduce their carbon footprint).
Second Degree: Making major changes in your lifestyle depending on the season
This includes people who have seasonal work: tree planters, ski resort owners, even tour guides and tax preparers! You probably work around the clock for part of the year and use the income to fund the rest of the year, or work another seasonal job. A popular combination where I live is landscaper / snow plow operator. My brother and sister-in-law might be Second Degree because in the late winter, they do maple syrup; in the late spring through early fall they garden and do all the preservation that entails; and in the fall, they hunt and butcher and make sausages and the like. Without all of these seasonal activities, they would have to move back to the city and get two full-time jobs.
Third Degree: Making optional changes in your lifestyle depending on the season
This one is for people who have options, which involves some wealth or priority setting. If you are a Canadian “snowbird” who goes south (to the US southern states) every winter, or a cottager who leaves the city and lives at the cabin for the summer, you are Third Degree! For more frugal folks, you can maintain your lifestyle by opting to do seasonally appropriate things: having a barbecue instead of using the oven on a hot day; reducing the oil bill by lighting the woodstove (especially if you have a wood lot), or vacationing at a nearby beach instead of flying to a distant city. I would put myself here: in the summer, I can go to festivals and go hiking; if the weather doesn’t cooperate, I can go to museums and movies. I am pleased that I have options, and I am aware that I am privileged to have them.
Fourth Degree: Preparing for, noticing and acting upon seasonal changes
Your livelihood and your leisure time are not turned upside down every season, but you benefit from paying attention. Most homeowners fall into this category if they keep a seasonal maintenance schedule, such as clearing leaves from the gutters or draining water from hoses before they freeze. You notice if a late frost is predicted, and cover up your seedlings. You take advantage of a dry spell to pull everything out of the garage and declutter. On a sunny weekend, you are ready to set up the sprinklers for the kids to play under. If rain is predicted during the family reunion, you rent a giant canopy. This level of “noticing” allows you to maintain what you own, take best advantage of your time, and avoid weather disappointments. You would be Fourth Degree if you live in a place surrounded by nature, so it’s unavoidable. When I am good, I am Fourth Degree…
Fifth Degree: Seasonal changes sneak up on you, and you adapt after the fact
…and when I am not, I am 5th! I’m sure none of my readers will relate to the following: the morning of the first snowfall, you groan because you didn’t finish raking the leaves. Your car is filthy but you can’t wash it because it is so far below freezing, the doors won’t open afterwards. You decline a weekend at a friend’s cabin in the winter because your only boots have stiletto heels and you’re afraid you’ll be asked to help stack wood. Three days into a heat wave, you break down and go to buy a fan, but they are sold out. Because you’re so tuned out, you miss opportunities or experience a lot of discomfort. You’re constantly kicking yourself and swearing you will do better next year. I have definitely been caught in some of these situations (which reminds me, I need to get my snow tires installed by November 15!) I am sometimes guilty of noticing the beautiful blossoms, flowers, leaves, or snowflakes, which should help me “twig” that certain seasonal tasks need doing… and then not doing them!
Sixth Degree: You don’t even notice the weather, much less the seasons!
If you live near the equator, you don’t usually talk about the weather because there’s no need. Likewise, if you are a dedicated urbanite (or an extreme techie) who works and plays indoors, the seasons won’t matter much – your activities will go on the same regardless. You pay your bills on time, you work on your web site until 2 a.m. – what does it matter whether it rains or shines, whether the earth is warming or cooling? To be honest, most of what I do is not weather dependent, but because I have a house and a yard and a car and a commute, I am never totally tuned out. Maybe I would be if I lived in LA!
It’s easy to go by the calendar instead of by the Great Outdoors. There’s the 12-month calendar, the school year, the TV season, the (cancelled?) hockey season, and lots of others to mark time against. Only 58 days to 2013!
I had a Korean pen pal long ago who wrote me, “We are lucky in that we have four distinct seasons.” I had always taken our east coast Canadian seasons completely for granted until I read those words. I’m sure that someday when I look out the window of my room in a nursing home, I will enjoy the spring daffodils and the red leaves in the fall and the first snowflakes. But in the meanwhile I can be quite oblivious sometimes. Shame on me!