What does the 1st of September mean to you?
The first of September means different things depending on which hemisphere you’re in.
In South Africa, 1 September is known as Spring Day because it marks the end of the official winter period. For South Africans, this means that there are only a few months to wait before summer holidays kick off.
In Johannesburg, the temperatures rise dramatically. Winter’s grey haze and freezing mornings are quickly replaced by sparkling, fresh days that seem to be tuned to the perfect temperature setting. This is my favourite time of year in Johannesburg (and Pretoria) because it is also the time when the Jacaranda trees bloom. Even the usually taxing drive to work feels less painful as one’s eyes are treated to row upon row of purple and lilac trees. And when the autumn winds blow, the streets are thrown full of natural confetti, the likes of which I have never seen before. What’s more is it doesn’t rain in September and October so you can start to plan birthday parties and picnics. If I were ever to plan a wedding in Johannesburg, I would plan for September.
In Cape Town, the winter feelings continues a little longer because there is still rain until November most years. But with winter rains comes something else. While Joburg is cold and dry, its trees bare and its grass dead, Cape Town winters are wet and replenished after the dry summer months. A floral kingdom, Cape Town’s 2000+ flower species get the watering they need. The mountains grow green mossy stubble and the trees are heavy with new growth. Springtime is a celebration of colours in Cape Town. The green mountains seem to glow with luminescence, the flowers on the west coast are in bloom and in multi-coloured abundance, and each and every person’s garden seems to explode with colour and delight. It is a time of new growth and new possibilities. With the smell of summer on the horizon, people will start coming out of hibernation and the invitations to attend braais (barbecues) and to go away for weekends will start again.
There is also something else that happens in spring. It is a time for love. Since as long as I can remember, I have felt that there is no better time to find a lover than in spring. Those who take their cues from nature will undoubtedly notice the noisy activities of birds, squirrels and other animals as they seduce and flirt. And the humans are no different. Unfortunately for some, this time of renewal also often means the end of relationships. Almost everyone knows someone who has succumbed to the September break-up trend. But ultimately, it is a time to reflect on the future and that future hold promises of long, hot summer days and bronzed beach bodies. Not such a bad idea to be single then…
In Europe, where I find myself today, the first of September means something completely different. It is officially the start of autumn or fall, heralding the end of summer. Here, summer is celebrated for three long months of parties and fiestas. Schools break over this period and there is a lot less work activity generally. It is a time when whole families walk the streets at night eating ice cream and gazing at the stars. The long days are starting to get shorter and shorter and soon it will start to get really cold, so cold the heaters will get switched on. For many, this day is also the start date to go back to work or university. I see a lot of my friends are starting their first day at a new job or their first day of term. It’s got that “back to school, back to reality” kind of feel.
Apart from the rush at stationery stores in previous weeks, one could feel the summer slipping away by the looks on people’s faces. Where before the trains were packed with jovial expressions, there is now a look of mundane resignation on the faces of fellow commuters. Although only barely noticeable in a busy city like Berlin, there has also been a drop in activity on the streets in my neighbourhood. The good weather brought everyone and his dog outside on the streets, restaurants and bars swelled with customers and there was a steady hum of chatter to be heard. The streets are now less noisy and less occupied. The fun festivities of summer are waning.
But it is also beautiful. I remember that when I lived in London, autumn was my favourite season. I loved the change in colours. I loved the fresh air and way the willow trees shook in the wind. I would walk along the Thames and marvel at the beauty of the reflection of the chameleon-like orange and green trees in the water, a stark contrast to the grey sky. I guess you can see beauty in all seasons, in all experiences.
I look forward to noticing the changes here in Germany. I am not entirely ecstatic about the approaching winter and I feel less than thrilled about riding my bike when it’s freezing but I have never experienced a proper winter before and so for that I am grateful and look forward to the changes ahead. But I do long to be apart of the changes back home. I know that feeling all too well and it is one that energizes even the most lethargic winter bones. Wherever you are in the world, enjoy it! And happy September to you!