Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Spring has sprung

Odd how so many of my thoughts and musings drift towards the seasons. I must be practically Pagan. Except, everyone around me seems utterly obsessed too. The first thing we do when we wake up is tear open our curtains and peer up at the sky, checking to see what the day will bring. We rave about the sunny days and then soon come to loathe them. We giggle at the winter and its flurries of frost – and then moan about this too.

It is scientific fact that sunshine makes us happy. When we absorb sunlight, the levels of serotonin increase in our brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that contributes to our wakefulness, which, in turn, puts us ‘in a good mood’.

Sunlight also increases our Vitamin D levels (through the ultraviolet rays). Vitamin D helps boost serotonin and keep it high.

Now Spring is coming. You can smell it in the air. It is late – but it’s coming. In my local park, crocuses are emerging, daffodils protruding from their long-suffering green stems. And it all looks stunningly, amazingly, fundamentally beautiful: to have made it through a long, harsh winter – and to know that they’ve made it too. We are survivors.

But I wonder why this is beautiful. Perhaps it is just the colour: long swathes of violet that collapse over everything. A sheen, a gleam, then an explosion of yellow. That bright, piercing, wincing blue sky…the kind you get rarely, when there is absolutely no cloud cover. The kind that looks almost superficial and Photoshopped.

Perhaps it is linked to this expectation of sunshine. To this expectation of serotonin coming our way, marking an end to all the SAD-stricken people around us.

But I don’t like to be deterministic. Science must have a role to play in beauty – yes. And I certainly can see the connection between beauty and happiness.

But beauty tends to less simple that this suggestion. It is complex and unwieldy and tricky and distorted. It can coil around ugly things, too. There can be beauty in grey clouds…though usually if they have broken up a chain of otherwise boiling, blue-hot days. Or they are large and blooming, crumpled and cumulus. There is something somehow special and unique in them.

We humans love patterns: anything that breaks a pattern and anything that asserts a pattern. It is well argued – well known – that we are a pattern-seeking species. And the seasons form the ultimate pattern; the ultimate, beautiful, spectacular certainty. They combine continuation and disruption in 12 beautiful months.

With winter, comes spring; with spring, comes summer; with summer, comes winter; and thus, we return.

In these desperate times, in our uncertain lives, it is no wonder we watch the seasons pass with a sense of marvel that never tires, that never loses its lustre. It is something to mark our lives against. It is something to convince us we will never fade, we will never fail…we will never die.