Peeking through the bank of native trees outside my study window, I see splotches of the red and orange of a deciduous immigrant. The sun sparkle dances off the leaves creating tongues of flame licking at the blue above. The ground beneath the trees is wet with puddles reflecting leaves and sky, remnants of the rain that pelted us over the last few days.
According to the calendar, we’ve passed from autumn to winter here down under. The Aussies count their seasons from the first day of the month in which the equinox or solstice occurs. Yet, there are not actually only four seasons here. That’s an idea the Europeans brought with them. In fact, season is not so much a matter of calendar or even temperature as it is of other natural indicators. A couple days ago, we were bundled in wool sweaters and socks with the heater on, and yesterday I had the window open, and the scene from that window looks like autumn.
I’ve been stitching an embroidered wheel of the year, one meant to represent the seasons of both the northern and southern hemispheres. This awareness and marking of the seasons is a primary tenet of my personal spiritual practice. As I tried to force the Australian seasons to match up with the northern hemisphere round, it became clear that the seasons aren’t just flipped.
Even in the northern hemisphere, “spring” may arrive before or after the Vernal Equinox. As I chose symbols to embroider for each season, I could see how the seasons meld one into the next, and the date of the equinox or solstice wasn’t necessarily an indicator. What is spring in Texas is still winter in Utah. Of course, others will tell me that “spring” in Utah means snow. And in Colorado the locals refer to second and third winter, those heavy, wet snowfalls that cover the land then melt the next day with the return of the sun.
As I enter my second winter here, I continue to try to wrap my mind around the idea of Australian seasons, to take my brain out of the four season European paradigm, to take a more intuitive approach. I’m learning about the seasons by marking the daily weather conditions in my calendar, and by being aware of which native trees are blooming around me as I go on my walks.
These kind of natural indicators are how Australia’s Indigenous people have been counting the seasons for the last 50,000 years. The Aboriginal idea of seasons has traditionally been connected to food supply, need for shelter, animal behavior, and the land itself.
I went on an internet search wanting to understand Australia’s seasons from the perspective of the Traditional Land Owners. I found this chart that shows we’re now in the time when the Burringoa, or Red Gum, is flowering. I’ll remember now that when the wind blows drifts of pollen into my living room it’s Tugarah Tuli.
I find nature’s cycles comforting; they ground me in place and time. Now nature tells me it’s time for cuddling on the sofa with afghans, and for baking bread and simmering pots of soup. As I watch the seasons change again and compare this June to last, I’m feeling a growing sense of familiarity in this still new-to-me land; I feel my roots reaching a bit deeper into the Australian soil.