Bloggers come and bloggers go - rather like the seasons. Some stalwarts stand like stone monoliths - Father Brague, Auntie Helen at Helsie's Happenings for example - while others leave the stage - Arctic Fox, Elizabeth and gradually, sadly, maybe even Daphne and Katherine? Recently, another fellow from our former colonies has leaked into my blog - a certain David Oliver and this Yankee chappie has thrown down a stars and stripes patterned gauntlet for your humble correspondent to pick up.
Essentially, David has challenged me to "Do a post about the effects of snow, clouds and frost on our psyche". Not to write a post, craft or create one you will notice - but to "do" one. Hmmph! Anyway, here goes. Though it would be possible to research this topic, sifting through academic observations of the meteorological, psychological or literary variety, I am going to address it simply from personal experience. My own thoughts - nobody else's.
Of course, I am Yorkshire born and bred and this is where I have lived over 90% of my life. Like the rest of England, we enjoy a climate that is temperate and with our maritime eastern Atlantic location our weather is often moody and unpredictable. It's why the weather is one of our nation's favourite topics of conversation for we never know what we are going to get from one day to the next. It is my contention that living with this weather lottery itself impacts on our people's psyche. In life - as in the weather - there are few certainties.
Turning to snow, clouds and frost. Well, I am not sure that they should be grouped together or dealt with separately but I will go for the latter.
Let me think about clouds first. As I look out of my window right now - it is dry but there's a thick blanket of white cloud above us. It doesn't threaten rain. It just seems to sit there and I know that if I could rise up through it like an aeroplane, there would be blue skies and gorgeous sunshine above. Instead, this thick white cloud filters the light and drains much of the colour from our streets and gardens. It is a bit depressing. It means you're less likely to work in the garden, to walk the hills or note the beauty of nature. It seems to suck something out of existence - that paleness, that empty feeling. It transfers itself to the human psyche and reduces the possibility of laughter. But days like these make us appreciate our blue sky sunny days all the more. In Spain or Arizona they seem to squander them: oh, another morning - more sun, more blue sky - what's the big deal? Here in the People's Republic of Yorkshire, we relish those lovely days and actively try make the most of them - if we are not at work.
In temperate countries, we have distinct seasons that you can read like a calendar. They mark the natural passing of time. Closer to The Equator, seasonal distinctions are much less clear. This was something I noticed in Thailand. Days are pretty much the same length the whole year round there and it will always be warm in spite of what they say about their "cool" and "hot" seasons. The difference appears marginal at best.
A hard frost sharpens one's senses and cleanses the earth. It is good for walking - paths like concrete - and icy patterns on windows. When winter sunshine bursts through and you are walking in frosty hills it feels good to be alive - invigorating - as good as soaking up summer sun on a beach by the Mediterranean. But frost means cold and that coldness seeps into houses and bones. You pull out extra bedding and coats. You turn up the heating and switch on the television. The cold can drive you indoors and make you hide from your friends and neighbours. Winter can be a depressing time as you await the first signs of springtime and the lengthening of days. Just around the corner. We anticipate.
And so to snow. When snow comes in the dead of night - billions of flakes falling in the street-light glow, gathering, millimetre upon millimetre, blanketing the earth - it looks so lovely and creates a muffled quietness. Somehow it covers faults - disguises them - and, like today's white cloud blanket, seems to drain colour away so that what you see is almost a black and white negative. I love the sound of fresh snow - squeaking, crunching underfoot. It is beautiful and different. And there's an element of danger too - you could slip. You could fall down. It gets the heart pumping.
But when snow keeps hanging about - turning to slush or dirty snow that is pocketed in hollows - it is like a visitor who has overstayed his welcome. You just want rid of it and like the clouds and the frost, snow can also be depressing.
I firmly believe that the human psyche has deep-seated connections with Nature in all of her guises - and that includes the weather. S.A.D. or Seasonal Affective Disorder is really real. We all feel it in spite of Yorkshire's magnificence but some feel it more than others. Cloud and frost and snow do not necessarily impact negatively upon the human psyche. They can bring benefits too. And when any of these three arrive you know that they will not remain forever - there will be blue sky days ahead. The sun will shine. The colours of The Earth will be apparent once again. It's about rhythms and patience and it's about the stimulation that unpredictability weaves into our lives.
In their offices, shopping centres, electric homes, factories or cars there may be some people who claim they are able to disregard Nature - carrying on in spite of what's outside. But this way of living - technology, instant light and heating, supermarket shopping and motor transport has only been with us for the blink of an eye. Looking back through the enormous span of human history - some 200,000 years - our forebears simply could not turn their backs on Nature. Their lives and prospects of survival were intimately entwined with it. They had to read it. They had to know it. Not for them PVC windows, social services or "The X Factor", no ready meals or inoculations. No, their psychologies were so connected with the days they lived in that it would have been unthinkable to suggest otherwise. And if we strip away our masking tape, our veneers you will find that underneath it all we are still the same. Well, that's what I think - and if you got this far - thank you for reading.