Sensory Prevention Factor 30 Plus
I came to a horrible realisation the other day, and it doesn't make me particularly proud. In fact, it is with shame, I, Kate Stone Matheson, brought up in the cold and windy climes of the Roaring Forties, admit the following.
I have turned into a complete and utter weather wuss.
It was living in Indonesia that did it. The sun crept into my bones, and, unlike more polite guests, it didn't bother to leave a thoughtful card and gift, pack its bags and depart from my body, even when I had my passport stamped for the final time at Soekarno-Hatta Airport and said 'Sampai Nanti' to life in The Big Durian.
Apparently, unlike normal visitors and fish, which begin to smell after three days in residence, having sunshine as a permanent lodger in one's skeleton invokes no odour. There is no discernible presence for those around me in terms of an angelic halo, or anything of that sort of malarkey; quite the opposite in fact. I turn into a big, grumbly whinger when the the Geek Factor 500 weather station on my desk drops below - ohhhhh, let's say, 23 degrees.
It was while I was shivering, moaning and huddling under the doona yesterday morning (it was only 10 degrees. ARCTIC!) with the lecky blanky at DEFCON 1, that I started thinking about the seasons in a slightly different way. OK, I moan about the cold weather, but secretly I quite enjoy distinct seasons. Crisp autumn mornings, the green grassiness of spring which for me is always, always a breathless reminder of childhood, and the languid sweat of a summer afternoon, when it's all too hard, except for a glass or two of wine and a snooze. Even the bite of a winter's evening in truly cold climates, when it's a pleasure to rug up and step out into a clear, star-filled street.
I also like the idea of having seasons in my soul, and heart. To think that if Vivaldi suddenly turned up ready to throw together a bit of a calendar-based collection of string solos, he'd be able to get some lightbulb moments for each of the four concerti depending on my mood.
Usually, summer - or at the very least spring - is running my psyche. But, occasionally, perhaps a little like Persephone descending into The Underworld for her allotted time with Hades, I can't help but let winter into my thoughts, and Cerberus, in his guise as the black dog of depression, manages to slip his leash. Thankfully, I am learning to get him under control, and make my way back to sunnier climes and blue skies of a happy soul.
But some people - well, for them, winter is a way of living, rather than just days on a calendar. Cold is ingrained in their personalities; it's almost as though they don't want to step into the sunlight for fear they may be burnt by happiness. Instead, they slap on Sensory Protection Factor 30 Plus, and allow the ice to become a part of their makeup, right down to the bone.
I understand this to a certain extent. Happiness, like going out in the sun, involves a bit of work. It means involving yourself in the lives of others - because inevitably, if you step into the sunshine, you won't be alone. Spring and summer? They're about companionship, and being involved in life and love, and good things. They're about growth. They mean engaging, and being a part of the world.
Winter - much easier. One can huddle one's feelings under the doona of exclusion, and allow nobody in. It's just you, and your thoughts. No need to worry about anyone else, and have them worry about you.
But. What happens when you finally decide to poke your personality out from under that dull warmth, is this; a chill very quickly sets in, and there is nobody there to tuck the blankies back in around your heart and mind.
So at the risk of sounding like Ned Stark prior to the chop, if you allow your mind to believe winter is permanently coming, you will deprive yourself of something enormously important in your 75-odd years on the planet.
Four seasons of strength, storms, tears, laughter, joy, and yes, ice and pain - possibly all in one day every so often -
- and those calendar moments of brilliant sunny happiness, which equate to the most sparkling of the senses.
Even the risk of hitting an iceberg is worth it if a little ray of that shines in somewhere along the way.