Long Summer Days Give Way to Autumn Leaves

Falling Leaves in Zrinjevac Park, Zagreb

I grew up loving winter.  It meant dressing up in boots and warm tracksuits, a warm fireplace to fall asleep next to in our sitting room, and sipping hot chocolate in the mornings before school.  For a long time I even felt that winter was my favourite season.  We weren't the type of family that would run away to the coast every summer nor did we have a swimming pool, so aside from the extended summer holidays, there was nothing that made me particularly fond of summer.  Winter felt more special, treasured.  Perhaps that was because winters were short in South Africa.

For the last couple of years, living in Europe, the opposite has been true for me.  Summer is short-lived.  It is a time when days are super-long (sometimes we have sixteen hours of sunshine per day) and our small town comes to life.  There are parties, festivals, water sports and all kinds of stuff to do.  I used to take these things for granted because after summer would end here, I'd just hop back on a flight to South Africa, just in time to catch the beginning of summer there.  And so it went on... Until last year when I experienced my first winter in Dalmatia.  Granted, it isn't nearly as cold or dreary as further up north (I've spent winters in London and Zagreb), but it's depressing nevertheless.  When the harsh winds hit us last year we were unprepared.  My husband trudged on, going out to chop wood to stuff our furiously hungry fireplace.  If the temperature in the room dropped below 24°C, I began to shiver.  For much of this time, I could be found rolled up in a tight ball under a blanket on the sofa right next to the fireplace in our kitchen.  It wasn't pleasant.

A reason for my discomfort was that I had slowly been slipping into depression since summer of that year.  So, it felt worse when I realised that it had gotten cold and horrible, and I hadn't even taken the time to enjoy the summer while it was there.  At the time it was almost impossible to imagine that summer would come again.

It did and it was wonderful.  This year we opened up our home to guests from all around the world.  We made new friends, and I finally started talking to my neighbours.  We had fun, swam, went on boat trips, walked to the beach, and visited nearby towns.  Now, for autumn and winter, we'll be taking hikes and enjoying the quietness, until the rush of summer hits us again next year.

Lately I've been feeling somewhat groggy.  The shorter days, rain, and disappearing sun has awakened an anxiety in me.  "What if this winter will be like last winter?"  I panic a bit before I realise that it can't possibly be.  We're more prepared now.  My husband has been working to fix the leaks in our ceiling, we have better clothing (European winters are not at all like South African winters), and I am not in the middle of an acute depressive episode.  There will be things to enjoy this year.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression associated with late autumn and winter.  That's not what I had, but some people do suffer from it.  I guess we could say that it's a serious (and medical) case of the "winter blues".  In order to beat such feelings, I've instead opted to enjoy different versions of a song I love that adequately describes how I feel.

Here come the Autum Leaves.

The version I first fell in love with...

Doris Day has always been a favourite of mine...

My favourite version.  I love Edith Piaf!

Another beautifully melancholic version...

Of course Barbara had to do her own version too...

Now that we've had a moment to appreciate each artist's rendition of this classic (and there are many, many more on YouTube), perhaps even cry a bit; we can safely move on and look for all the beauty in autumn.  Tranquility, colourful leaves, and good reasons to stay indoors.  I'm thinking hot chocolate, sizzling polenta porridge, fruit teas, movies, rich vegetable soup, and dancing to the music that I love will do the trick.

Maja Dezulovic

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