Winter is a funny season for me. All seasons are funny for me - no matter how far I go from Bolton, in my mind the weather I experienced as a child defines my notion of seasons even today. However, with every move, I've taken myself away from those simplistic categories of winter, spring, summer and fall.
Koreans are always touting themselves as a country with four seasons. Coming from Canada, the excitement behind that claim boggled my mind - of course you have four seasons. That's just how it should be. Korean springs and falls do a decent job of mirroring my notions of those seasons, but in the extremes Korean weather fails to comply with everything I bring to mind when I think summer and winter.
Korean summers really come in two parts - the nice, sunny, hot months and the humid monsoon months. Korean winters are cold enough for me, but lack the all important snow. In Seoul, snow seldom falls and is unlikely to stay around. Korean winters also lack that impending Christmas sensation that you get back home as early on as Halloween. While people back home bemoan the way Christmas has slowly but steadily pushed its way back into months in which it doesn't belong, I instead feel a bit of sadness that I don't even feel Christmas on the 25th, much less any earlier.
But Korea wasn't the first challenge to my sense of the seasons. Edinburgh had its seasons, but they were so different. Winter was rainy and the damp sank into my bones. Spring started out dry but often quite dreary and moved into more rain. A Scottish summer is just a warmer rainy - one year I was there the radio announced that it had rained every single day in the month of June. I'm pretty sure the rain started as I left work each day - usually without an umbrella. Fall in Edinburgh is dark, chilly, but most importantly, windy.
Vancouver was a challenge to my notion that my seasons were Canadian. I arrived in Vacouver in November, sure that its rainy reputation would not faze me after my years in Scotland. However, the prevelence of trees blocking what little sun there was made the Vancouver fall my least favourite season ever. Once Vancouver moved its way into winter, the sun started to come out more, but there is something disconcerting about walking to have Christmas dinner with a friend and her family in a t-shirt. Spring and summer are the most delicious seasons in Vancouver, however, and possibly the most so of all of the seasons I have experienced as yet.
Travelling has forced me to lose the absolute four-season framework I developed over 21 years in Ontario. I now want to know when dry and rainy seasons are, when the off season starts and ends, what the wind will be doing. But no matter how far travelling expands my understanding of the many shades of meaning that the word season represents, it is still a snowy winter, rainy spring, sunny summer and crisp fall that my mind returns to. There may be many kinds of seasons, but there will always just be four in my heart.