This fall is never-ending. It has been sweater weather for months, and despite knowing this will not change I wait for a frigid wind to blow through. I’ve called home for winter coats and boots, had them shipped out West from my parents’ place back East. My red wool coat hangs still at the back of the closet, and now we are in December.
Some days I think we are just about to make it. Mornings the tile floors at home are ice cold; evenings, too. They punish me for walking around barefoot in the old Victorian we rent: a charming, if slightly run down flat that does little to keep the heat in. When I ask my roommates where they keep the storm windows, they respond with furrowed brows and blank stares. They are both native to California; they have never heard of storm windows. I swear they must be joking, until it turns out they are not.
Outside, I wear flats, stockingless, forefeet exposed to the cold and taunting the wind to hit me with a winter snap. Go on, I say, I dare you, toes and all. But no frost or below-zero wind chill emerges to usher me indoors, and winter stays quiet.
Despite this tamest of winters, I am nearly always slightly chilly. Not so cold so as to be uncomfortable but just enough to always feel a slight chill at my back. Back East, summer dresses and spring blouses were accompanied by cotton cardigans and light scarves to fight the arctic air brought forth by aggressive AC units; here no single season dictates the chill. It is always in the mid 50s to mid 60s no matter the time nor the month. Bars and restaurants leave windows and doors open all day and night and the draft is constant. Here I am cold more often indoors than out.
This is life in the Bay, where Indian summers bring shorts and tank tops to the city for just a few months, and temperatures otherwise live comfortably in the same range year-round. When Fall descends in November it is endless, lingering through December, in no hurry to move on. The winter solstice arrives and it is the most autumnal I’ve ever seen: the shortest day but not the coldest, a golden sunlight in place of the white winter skies of the East. It is charming; quaint, even. It is disorienting.
I remember how my body used to feel the seasons. How it anticipated the change from hot to cold, how it inevitably softened as the cold set in, just in time for hibernation. Hearty meals with thick sauces and warm spirits to stave the night come winter; cravings for sprightly salads and chilled soups as the weather brightened. In between, a spring awakening: a dusting off of our formerly inhabited selves year after year.
Now I wait for it and on occasion it comes: an evening that feels like winter, a morning that feels like spring. But most days are like an endless Autumn, and my body doesn’t quite know what to do.
How to mark the time when the seasons do not end? There is a song by the Byrds based on the Book of Ecclesiastes: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” (Turn! Turn! Turn!) But here there is no change in the air or on the horizon: no rush to turn, turn, turn from season to season. A good season, I remember, is like a song; it seizes an emotion and bottles it for you to return to, over and over and over again. Without the seasons, time feels like a theory—a myth spoken about in stories past or lives lived before mine. Time seems to fly faster here, but somehow slower, too. Without the seasons it feels as if all the time in the world is yours.
Until one day it hits you—a birthday, an anniversary, a holiday—a life event time-stamped and true. Can a New Year really come in Spring? When it happens you realize how much time has actually passed, and admit how much you rely on the seasons to capture a moment or archive an event. You realize how sharp time truly is, how cunning; how all the while the seasons here had fooled you. Quickly then: to catch up, to start over! The seasons roll back and turn to you for direction. Ample time, or not.