As always, the only thing linking the two items mentioned in this post in my mind is that they both start with the same letter of the alphabet.
The Four Seasons
Our garden in spring, fall and winter.
(All photos in this section of the post are mine.)
The change of the seasons, that is, and the fact that I am living in a part of the world where four seasons actually do exist to begin with. When I was growing up, I preferred the warm, sunny climate of Southern Europe and other parts of the world that I knew from my vacations; and I wished that I was living there rather than in Germany with its often rainy falls and winters. But after having returned to Germany from a several years’ stay in Southern California (where the only way to distinguish whether it was summer or winter was to look at whether I was wearing sleeveless or short-sleeve tops outdoors or tweeds that, in Germany, I’d only have put on in temperatures a good 15-20°C / 50-60°F lower), I’ve not only made my peace with the change of the seasons but now find that I actually like it — because it provides for a true variation in the weather, and because there is something about each of the seasons that I love in turn:
Spring in the Rhine Valley south of Bonn and in our garden.
In spring nature awakens; the days grow longer, the air grows milder and, loving flowers as I do — in fact, flowers were a hot contender for the “F” slot on the “likes” side — I could spend hours outside just wandering from one budding blossom to the next (and probably taking photographs of all of them, too). There’s something incredibly delicate and hopeful about spring; or at least, a spring that follows the gloom of a “real” winter.
Verona (Italy) ~~ in the Serrania de Ronda (Andalucía, Spain) ~~ sunset in Rancho Palos Verdes (CA, USA) ~~ late afternoon at Grand Canyon (AZ, USA) ~~ Kitchener’s Island, Assuan (Egypt) ~~ Uluru / Ayers Rock (Northern Territory, Australia)
Summer is all about light and warmth: I no longer necessarily crave the heat and (near-)perpetual sunshine of Southern California or of a Southern European summer, but I’m still enormously attracted to sunlit landscapes, I love to feel the sun touching my face, and I love to watch the day slowly fading into night in the long hours of a summer evening. — In recent years, I’ve got distinctly more sun and heat even here in Germany than I ever thought would be possible (complete with lack of rain and other desert[ification] attributes; it almost felt like I had never moved back from SoCal at all) — but this “somewhat too much of a good thing” has only made me appreciate the change of the seasons all the more in turn.
November sunset near Bonn
In fall, while the days get shorter, the light of the sun at the same time also becomes warmer, not in temperature but in shine and tincture; and the leaves on many trees match it in their hues. This may be a bit of an over-simplification (particularly in our area, where it rains quite a lot), but even a few “golden” days really will go a long way to make up for many a gray and rainy one, and in no other season are sunsets quite as dramatic as in fall.
My winter wonder world! (Or some parts of it …)
In winter, finally, if we are very (very, very) lucky there is snow — I love snow, except if I have to drive in it; I’ve never lost my deep-seated childhood wonder at the way in which it turns the world into a fairyland in the space of less than an hour — but even if the world outside is the dark, rainy and gloomy place that it is in winter most of the time hereabouts, there is no time like winter to cuddle up with a pet, a book, and a hot drink. Also, my mom began teaching me to ski before I’d even turned five, and for the next several decades we would spend a week or two at a skiing resort in the Alps (or the Black Forest) at least once, if not twice every winter, and I used to look forward to those vacations as much as to those in summer. (I can’t do this anymore now — ski boots have a similar effect on my feet as Spanish boots, or at least it very much feels that way –, so these days I’m relegated to watching winter sports competitions on TV; but I will always have the memories of those vacations, and I still love the Alpine winter scenery.) Finally, winter is the season of Yuletide — Christmas and Advent –, to which we’ll be returning in another entry, and the cozy parts of which I also love a lot.
I guess by way of an illustration, I just need to point to recent events:
(And I swear I had already put together my A-Z list weeks before that event.) So, yeah — zealots of all creeds and colors; racists, nationalists, xenophobes and proponents of outright genocide, religious extremists, fascists, Stalinists, and adherents of other totalitarian, populist or otherwise radical and undemocratic ideologies: Fanaticism is “bandwagon” writ large, and it is the most harmful thing to have haunted the annals of world history practically from their inception.
And although the term “fan” has a much more positive and apparently harmless connotation in such areas as sports and the entertainment industry, I’m going to include those areas here, too — because they are, not merely in theory but often very much in practice, subject to the same sort of mass hysteria, even above and beyond crowds of teenagers having fainting fits outside their favorite singers’ or actors’ hotel rooms. Hooliganism has long been a scourge in professional sports, none more so than football (soccer), there are known links between certain groups of “ultras” (hooligans) and Neonazi organizations, and even outside such political overtones, anybody who has watched the May 1985 Heysel Stadium tragedy unfold (I did, via German TV’s live broadcast, which quickly changed from the broadcast of a sports match into a “live from the battlefield” kind of thing) knows to what extremes fanaticism in sports can go.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t attend any sports events or, for that matter, rock concerts (and enthusiastically sing along with my favorite songs), or that I underestimate the importance of “fan” support in profesional sports — team and individual sports alike. And it’s quite probable that my dislike of crowds makes me more suspicious than other people of large gatherings in areas such as sports and the entertainment industry anyway. Even so, there’s a slippery slope from genuine, beneficial support (alone or in groups) to mass hysteria and violence; and the greater the popular appeal of the team, band, or person being supported, and, by the same token, the bigger and more unrestrained the group of supporters, the greater, too, the risk that, given the right kind of kindling, the whole mixture is going to blow up in everybody’s faces in a giant ball of fire.
And of course, since the middle of the 20th century we all know where fanaticism — particularly racist and religious fanaticism — will lead in its most extreme form: