A Season That Isn’t
A tepid breeze floats through the wire-meshed window, keeping out the pests, real and imaginary. The voices have died down and been drowned out by the excited shrieks and argumentative voices on the news channels. A bus comes to a screeching halt on the main road- traffic ceases on this already quiet day, the apprehensions have been unfounded; are we finally learning the right way to live, if there is any such thing?
It is unusually warm for the end of September. Isn’t this when the humidity of the monsoons is supposed to have said a firm goodbye and yielded its place to the first chilly warnings of winter, when leaves should be floating off trees forming yellow and brown crinkly heaps to be crunched underfoot- but wait, this isn’t New England. So how relevant is it for me to revel in Steinbeck’s luscious prose in Travels with Charley or be seduced by Keats’ Ode to Autumn?
“Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, -”
These lines, printed on the cover of a CD of instrumental music supposed to depict the magic of autumn in New England, first introduced me to John Keats’ breath-takingly wonderful description of the season. You don’t have to have known the season to see it in your head, to imagine the fragrances and the soft wind billowing through an enchanted evening, and add your own pictures to them. I have ever since been besotted by the idea of autumn- and here I must admit I like the word ‘fall’ better, because there is a soft, simple, unpretentious ring to it, as opposed to the slight grandioseness of ‘autumn’, which doesn’t seem to go with the earthy beauty of the season. Having always lived in places perennially under the sway of clammy heat and white-hot sunlight, broken only by unexpected cloudbursts, the very idea of skeletal trees against ominous skies is enchanting. And there is nothing quite like lyrical prose and poetry to reinforce those distant ideas that they themselves give birth to.
Call this nostalgia if you will, my brooding over a season that I don’t know. This is what I’m thinking about on a sticky, tropical night, when the stars are barely visible through a thick blanket of purple clouds, and the persistent song of crickets breaks the quiet in tandem with the low electric roar of the fan cutting through the stillness. Everyone I can talk to is asleep and the words have shrivelled up and gone away, fickle things, leaving me bereft of company.
This is when the imagination takes flight. I think of white adobe structures in Greece, blue domes in Turkey, gigantic bridges spanning broad blue-grey rivers, snow-capped mountains, green minarets down the road. And mostly of autumn in a distant land that I may never set foot on. Pictures aplenty in my head, and not enough words to match them. All I can think of, when the world is on the verge of burning, is a pretty little season. In a few weeks, the snowflakes will follow.
And perhaps that is why, all is right with life. When all else fails, the imagination comes to your rescue and weaves you the Utopia you crave for.