Thursday, 13 February 2014

Creatures of habit.

The winter that never came will soon pass. The winter road services, hundreds of tonnes of gravel and salt put away without ever being put out. The one year we changed to winter tyres on time, cost us more fuel and no additional safety. Central Europe is having the anti-thesis of the American winter. There are even theories flying around about one causing the other. I personally, am suspicious of the weather God's ulterior motives for sparing me its winter wrath.

We in Munich, have had virtually no snow, apart from some soggy, half-hearted flakes that briefly lingered on the ground in little white piles of mush. The temperatures have been mild at best. I can't even remember when it was unpleasantly wet and windy last. Nature in it's great wisdom seizes the opportunity wherever it can and adapts quickly - trees and bushes are already swelling at their tips with new life. Chirping birds tell of a change in plan, the effort to migrate to the warmer south just didn't seem justified this year. The Great Tit and the Nuthatch are already going about the business of finding a mate and starting a family, or perhaps two, with all the additional time on their wings! Toads are migrating earlier, rabbits and hare are already on the scurry hop, squirrels aren't worrying about their winter stocks not lasting. It's still February, but who's to point that out to nature.

On the tube this morning I noticed most everyone, myself included, is still wrapped and mummied in heavy winter coats, steaming beneath them, complete with wooly hat and scarves, some even wore gloves - at almost 14°C! It is winter and that's a fact. There won't be any cheerful spring colours sported yet, NO NO, the dark grey and blacks and heavy blues will have to sit it out through the official end of the season and no earlier! Why??? There is an odd stubbornness about the way the humans go about it, with an unyielding inflexibility. Unwilling to accept that things are different now, things that we have been instrumental in changing - changes that we can't have. The fur lined boots trapped in sweaty feet in heated rooms. Drippy sad snowmen get built by eager desperate little hands. It IS winter!

Spring is a reward that's earned well after a bitter cold winter. There is even a sense of guilty privilege, not having gained the right to the warmth of Spring. Perhaps humans are simply domesticated creatures of habit and routine - needing to do the same set of things over and over again, for security and reassurance and safety. In the German national service, winter was commanded from November to March. During this period the soldiers had to pack themselves in furs and winter layers - T-shirts were forbidden, whatever the temperature. From the 1st of April, summer was commanded, all winter paraphernalia had to go - only T-shirts were permitted, even if it snowed. China has a neat border demarcating the north - with what qualifies as a winter hence deserving central heating, and the south - with what doesn't qualify as winter, hence by policy, having summer all year round. It's pure fate for the poor freezing unfortunate that live on the wrong side of the border in the same weather conditions without central heating.
Even when we do have the choice, we rigidly stick by the routine we know. Determined to maintain a sense of control. Making things exactly the way we want it to be. So It's woolies and warm clothes and hot cups of tea and long sofa snuggles wrapped in cozy warm blankets.

 An officious looking rabbit hurry-hopped across my path. He jerked a look at me - not of fear, more incredulous, curious sympathy at me carrying my own weight and that of a dark black bulging down coat on my back. He seemed to be daring me to embrace the change, showing me how it's done.

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