Autumn is a season I never took much notice of because it never really existed for me in Australia.
Sure, there were the hints that the transitional season between summer and winter was arriving in the crisp mornings and evenings, but nothing that you could really see.
Here in Spain, it’s autumn and there’s no way you could miss it.
The trees are changing colour and leaves are leaving their loyal post on the trees for another year.
My surrounds have literally transformed since I arrived.
And as I walked along the once green-lined, now yellow-lined path, I realised that’s what it took for me to realise nature had been moving closer towards winter every day since I arrived.
It got me thinking about our own seasons specifically in Australia, and more broadly as human beings.
Actually, even more specifically, I thought about the seasons in North Queensland and the human being I call me.
Firstly, North Queensland.
The place where the ocean is always warm and inviting except when it isn’t and where winter happens sporadically on certain days of the week.
Seasons aren’t exactly as defined as they are in the northern hemisphere; there are no deciduous trees to speak of and the change in temperature is really quite mild (but don’t remind me of that when I’m complaining how cold it is next winter, okay?).
And yet, you could say that in North Queensland the seasons are far starker than they are in the northern hemisphere: drought contrasted with flood; dry, parched land against leafy and green; thongs (flip flops/sandals) compared to a closed-toe shoe.
There are definitely patterns that nature seems to follow, even if we are still trying to figure out her exact cycles.
Okay, so there are seasons in North Queensland too. Wow, such a revelation.
But, bear with me for a moment, because the point I want to make is that it still takes a physical transformation, one that we can see, before we are aware that a particular season has started.
While we go about our everyday lives, Mother Nature is slowly working on her own project.
Things are growing and dying, the wind whispers to anyone who’ll listen, growing angrier until she later roars, lost clouds get pushed and pulled across the skies at the will of who knows what.
We wake up to a rainy day and all we think about is how it affects our day: what we will wear, our activities for the day, and, if you’re like me, our motivation for work.
We don’t think about Mother Nature working on her project, trying to balance her elements and stick to the cyclical recipe passed down to her through the generations.
There is an exception to this: those who share an intimacy with nature, such as the people who work her land, whether that be for work or as a hobby, are acutely aware of her goings on.
Yet, when it comes to us as human beings, there are few exceptions that share that seasonal and transformational intimacy with anybody, including ourselves.
I look at baby photos of myself and could not tell you exactly how I got from there to here.
A transformation occurred, several in fact, but I don’t remember ever actively growing anything other than my nails (and my hair after a few awful haircuts circa 2005).
The transformation happened so slowly and as much as I looked in the mirror, I could never catch ageing in the act.
And, unlike nature, our transformation is linear – from young to old – rather than regenerating or cyclical (for now, c’mon technology – Benjamin Button me and stop when you get back to 24).
Because ageing is linear, we can mark our growth with celebrations like birthdays, even if we have no clue what really changed physically between one age bracket and the next (puberty excepted).
Of course, all that mirror time did count for something and I recently noticed I had a tiny chip in my front tooth. No one else would have noticed it.
It’s kind of like when one of your gal pals says, ‘Notice anything different?’ and you are left searching, wondering what the answer could be.
A drastic haircut, or any hair cut at all, I will notice.
I even manage to pick up on things like self-tanning and blonde-to-brunette transformations because I am brilliant.
But, if she replies, ‘It’s my skin, of course. This new product is making my skin so smooth’ I’ll externally validate the skin meanwhile thinking to myself, Huh?
That was my chipped tooth to most, except for my older, wiser, and keenly observant sister.
Still, I had no idea how that tooth had come to chip itself (probably on some type of chip if I’m honest).
After that, I looked in the mirror again. Really hard. I noticed other physical transformations – lines that I had never noticed before, and just this overall difference.
I couldn’t tell you what it was. The eyes looking back at me were the same as they’ve always been but different.
It made me think past physical transformations to one on a different plane – mental, emotional and spiritual (take your pick).
When I think about any of one those, I remember pivotal changes that shaped my mental capacity, emotional tenacity and just plain spirituality.
Those changes are a lot easier to pinpoint. But, just like physical transformations, it’s always after the fact.
Standing here in autumn in Spain, I want to be more aware of my growth day-by-day. Incrementally.
I want to see if I have my own seasons.
I want to look at my reaction to situations and think ‘It’s happening! I finally caught you ageing.’
As for my physical self, I know I won’t ever be able to catch ageing, it’s as elusive as the truth, but at least I know I’ll always be looking into the same eyes that made me realise all the beautiful transformations of this world.