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As we move from summer to winter through the transition of the golden autumn, with temperatures lowering and darkness progressively embracing us, the varied lot of people living in a country of seasonal weather is a pleasure to experience.
It is because of the transitional nature of autumn that it is one of my favourite times of year.
Perhaps because the people of Ruaig are said to be descended from seals and therefore acclimatised to the cool waters of the Atlantic, my body does not do well in hot temperatures, so moving into the colder times of year agrees with my aquatic ‘Ròn Rubhaig’ ancestry.
By the time we are in the middle of deepest darkest January and February I, like most others will be craving a bit of heat and sunlight – even my distant cousins, the seals will be by then – but at the entry to winter, which is encompassed by the changes of October, the cold dark evenings hit me like a cool drink on a hot day.
Stepping outside on a chilled calm October evening, in the early darkness that is suggestive of the coming winter, accompanied by the smell of smoke from the coal fires of distant chimneys, brings back vivid memories from childhood and gives an instant reference point to this time of year and the beginning of the journey towards mid-winter.
I remember as a teenager, reading the American novelist John Steinbeck’s thoughts on people from the cold northern parts for the United States craving the warm climes of Florida in the South East. For years, through snowy winters and unpredictable weather many dreamed of moving to Florida with its long hot summers and mild winters.
What was fascinating was that of those who were able to make the move eventually, most, in a brief time returned to the north. After a few seasons of predictably warm weather, the climate became boring and unfulfilling to them and they yearned to return to a changing climate.
The weather and limited sunlight in this part of the world get a bad press through all our moans and groans, but without diversity and comparison, we would have nothing to enjoy when good weather comes again and when the dreamy long days of summer return.
Without the howling gales and driving rain of November, we would not appreciate the crispness of a sunny May morning. Without the short dark and deeply cold days of December, we would not appreciate the long sultry summer nights of July.
Diversity and comparison are aspects of life that keep us on an even keel and can give most pleasure. The world and our lives upon it are full of opportunities to make the most of these comparisons. Food is most delicious when we are hungry, water is most euphorically quenching when we are thirsty, a warm fire is most blissful when we are cold, and a still harbour gives the most blissful relief when reached from a stormy sea.
So the worse the winter weather, the more we may enjoy the gifts of summer and we can be grateful to live in a part of the world that provides this bounty of diversity.