MacPhail

The Oban Times - - LETTERS - AN­GUS MACPHAIL an­gus­macphail@ya­hoo.co.uk

AS WE move from sum­mer to win­ter through the tran­si­tion of the golden au­tumn, with tem­per­a­tures low­er­ing and dark­ness pro­gres­sively em­brac­ing us, the var­ied lot of peo­ple liv­ing in a coun­try of sea­sonal weather is a plea­sure to ex­pe­ri­ence.

It is be­cause of the tran­si­tional na­ture of au­tumn that it is one of my favourite times of year.

Per­haps be­cause the peo­ple of Ruaig are said to be de­scended from seals and there­fore ac­cli­ma­tised to the cool wa­ters of the At­lantic, my body does not do well in hot tem­per­a­tures, so mov­ing into the colder times of year agrees with my aquatic ‘Ròn Rub­haig’ an­ces­try.

By the time we are in the mid­dle of deep­est dark­est Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary I, like most oth­ers will be crav­ing a bit of heat and sun­light – even my dis­tant cousins, the seals will be by then – but at the en­try to win­ter, which is en­com­passed by the changes of Oc­to­ber, the cold dark evenings hit me like a cool drink on a hot day.

Step­ping out­side on a chilled calm Oc­to­ber evening, in the early dark­ness that is sug­ges­tive of the com­ing win­ter, ac­com­pa­nied by the smell of smoke from the coal fires of dis­tant chim­neys, brings back vivid mem­o­ries from child­hood and gives an in­stant ref­er­ence point to this time of year and the be­gin­ning of the jour­ney to­wards mid-win­ter.

I re­mem­ber as a teenager, read­ing the Amer­i­can nov­el­ist John Stein­beck’s thoughts on peo­ple from the cold north­ern parts for the United States crav­ing the warm climes of Florida in the South East. For years, through snowy win­ters and un­pre­dictable weather many dreamed of mov­ing to Florida with its long hot sum­mers and mild win­ters.

What was fas­ci­nat­ing was that of those who were able to make the move even­tu­ally, most, in a brief time re­turned to the north. After a few sea­sons of pre­dictably warm weather, the cli­mate be­came bor­ing and un­ful­fill­ing to them and they yearned to re­turn to a chang­ing cli­mate.

The weather and lim­ited sun­light in this part of the world get a bad press through all our moans and groans, but with­out di­ver­sity and com­par­i­son, we would have noth­ing to en­joy when good weather comes again and when the dreamy long days of sum­mer re­turn.

With­out the howl­ing gales and driv­ing rain of Novem­ber, we would not ap­pre­ci­ate the crisp­ness of a sunny May morn­ing. With­out the short dark and deeply cold days of De­cem­ber, we would not ap­pre­ci­ate the long sul­try sum­mer nights of July.

Di­ver­sity and com­par­i­son are as­pects of life that keep us on an even keel and can give most plea­sure. The world and our lives upon it are full of op­por­tu­ni­ties to make the most of these com­par­isons. Food is most de­li­cious when we are hun­gry, wa­ter is most eu­phor­i­cally quench­ing when we are thirsty, a warm fire is most bliss­ful when we are cold, and a still har­bour gives the most bliss­ful re­lief when reached from a stormy sea.

So the worse the win­ter weather, the more we may en­joy the gifts of sum­mer and we can be grateful to live in a part of the world that pro­vides this bounty of di­ver­sity.

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