“Summer! That’s when we set up the paddling pool and we always have ice cream!” I ask her older brother Luke what his favourite season is. “Autumn! That’s the best time for flying my kite!” My pickings are meagre but I don’t give up quite yet and ask Julian. He is silent for a while, then: “I think I like winter the best because then it is nice and cosy in the house and I have time to read.” Finally there is Kirstin. “Seasons ...?” she says absentmindedly fiddling about on her iPod, “... don’t really care. As long as I can do what I want. Well, perhaps spring without the hay fever.”
Do children, young people, indeed adults, have any sense any longer of what is happening at any given time and place in nature? T-shirt, light jacket and trainers – that is the dress for all seasons. Christmas comes after the summer sales and Easter after the winter sales. Winter holidays are spent splashing about in the lagoons of the Maldives, summer holidays trekking on the glaciers in Nepal. And in the food shops we can always get everything all the year round. On the Internet as a transfer picture in any case.
Maintaining the seasons and festivals of the year is a good tradition in Waldorf kindergartens and the class teacher period in school. They help people to feel at home in the natural course of events around them in the world, to grow with the plants, blossom with the flowers, bushes and trees, mature like a golden corn field and produce fruit like a sweet apple; they help to bring in the harvest, finally to wither, wilt and almost disappear, to contract into themselves like a seed in order then to start again anew. And the transitions from one season to another are the most critical phases of the year. Every doctor and farmer knows that. We have just adjusted to one season when it is too cold, too warm, too light, too dark, too wet, or too dry again.
In spring, when everything in outer nature sprouts and blossoms, it is difficult to hold oneself together inwardly. In the summer such being out of oneself increases to become a dull brooding – like having a head made of lead. In autumn we have to resist the silent but unstoppable decay to avoid falling into a mild depression, and in winter stand firm against increasing rigidification, distance ourselves from it, create autonomy, and be it in the form of a stove or sauna.
We are inwardly called upon to carry out a counter movement to each season: self-reflection in response to spring awakening, mental concentration in response to summer heat, calmness of mind in response to autumn gales, soul warmth in response to winter cold. The seasons –perhaps profoundly unconsciously for some – keep the soul flexible and agile. It is a great dying and becoming.
Little Eva jolts me out of my train of thought: “Hey, why don’t we set up the paddling pool in the living room in the winter? We could pretend ...”