(written September 2016)
I must say, it is almost a night and day experience. Nowhere else where we have lived has it occurred in this fashion.
Let me explain what I mean.
The city of Antakya is situated in the southern most part of Turkey, in a ‘pan handle’ that extends down below the bulk of the country. This pan-handle encompasses a mountain range and a broad valley. It is bordered with Syria on the long, eastern and short southern sides, the Mediterranean sea on the long western side and our connection to the rest of Turkey on the northern side.
What this means is, this is the part of Turkey that is closest to the equator. In the summer, the sun is frightfully potent. Routinely our UV index is extremely high and the advice given is to avoid being out in the noon-day sun, that is between 12:00 and 15:00.
In addition to the heat, summer in Antakya is noted for the total absence of rain, and, er, well… clouds, for that matter.
September is marked by the first rains since spring. This September has been no different and we have had three or four days in succession where it rained.
The rain was not the beneficial, long, slow, soaking, permeating kind of rain, the kind that gently waters and replenishes the earth, but the short-lived, sudden, excessive, disproportionate, raging inundation type.
True, it emphatically washes the summer accumulation of dust away. It also results in a sudden over abundance of water pouring down the streets and entering the storm drain system.
Normally, the drains can handle this inundation, however, for the prolonged extent of summer, the drains have lain idle, unneeded, unused, forgotten and neglected. There has been no visible indicator that some of these drains have been, if not clogged, at least choked with dirt, debris, paper, stove-ash and other impediments.
With the sudden, prodigious amounts of water cascading down in these first autumnal rains, the result is many storm sewers are simply overwhelmed.
I noted on the morning after and continuing for days afterwards, the sight of prodigious amounts of ‘water’ geysering up out of manhole covers and then flowing down the street in search of a working drain.
So this year, September has been proceeding normally.
However, before the advent of September and for the duration of the summer, commencing in June and carrying on, uninterrupted, the skies have been clear and rain unheard and unfelt. The very notion of ‘rain’ has, slowly, been morphing from a fading memory to a growing longing.
For some unfathomable reason, in spite of the daily, relentless, onslaught of the sun, hats are not in ‘style’ and people do not routinely wear them.
Now, as for me, for whatever psychological reasons, I am a hat person. I enjoy hats and enjoy wearing hats. I am used to them and appreciate them.
Having said that, for various reasons, this year I am not wearing hats in Turkey.
Consequently, from June until the rains, I wander about the city, hatless, my path being determined by where the shade and shadows are found.
Additionally, this means that outdoor walking, where possible, is limited to mornings and late afternoons/evenings. The noontime hours are avoided whenever practicable.
When I embark on a stroll, I do not have to think about avoiding the sun. For when I step out of our door, and that blast of solar energy strikes me, my eyes squint and I reel and stagger, automatically retreating to the nearest shade.
Therefore, the path of my daily constitutional is dictated by where the shadows lay.
Until, that is, this past Monday.
I struck out, as I normally do, and I immediately became aware of a general coolness in the air – it was readily apparent that the air felt chilly – not truly chilly you understand, just ‘comparatively’ chilly when compared to the summer norm.
Additionally, I was not automatically drawn to the shadows as was my wont.
Conversely, I felt myself being drawn to the sunshine – allowing it to gently warm me.
The first rains had come and gone days earlier, but it was that Monday, when the time had come; when ‘the change’ had occurred.
Summer is past and autumn has commenced.
It occurs almost like the flicking of a switch. One day is summer, the next is autumn; it is immediate, no preamble, no transition, no messing about, no indecision.
At the same time, it is important to be warned, temperature wise, this is a very deceptive time. Nights are cool, and the days start cool. But come midday, the temperatures can comfortably climb to 30 – 32º C. That is at least a 13º C – 16º C shift between night and day temperatures.
This is the season when you commence your morning walk and you rue not wearing a long-sleeved shirt as the chill bites and you are drawn to the warming, sunny places. But come the return leg, you are emphatically thankful for the short sleeved shirt as you once again search out the shade and shadows with perspiration flowing freely.
This is the time of year when the weather presents a simple recipe for catching a cold.
It is, let me emphasis, a beautiful time of year and a delight to go forth – properly dressed and prepared.
And so, the march of the seasons continues…
There is so much in life that is unpredictable and, well… fickle. It is quietly reassuring when you note the normal changes in the season. You know what has passed, and you know what is coming. It is comforting and heartening.
Additionally, this really is a delightful time of year; it is not oppressively hot, and it is not yet miserably cold and damp.
True, there is a threatening shadow, for as day follows day, it slowly grows cooler, quietly indicating that we are heading, inexorably, towards winter.
Winter in Antakya consists of rain – lots of rain. It is marked by gloomy, dark, short days, with low skies and what the locals call ‘cold’ weather. Others would undoubtedly declare that the weather is merely cool, temperate, and compared to some other locales, even pleasant.
This ‘cool’ weather, whilst nothing compared to other parts of Turkey, Europe or North America, still, due to the high humidity, results in a penetrating, piecing cold which is both inexorable and deeply felt. There is no fear of frost bite, but the cold still makes its presence inescapably and severely felt. The danger of hypothermia persists. In Antakya, houses are poorly insulated and coal stoves are the most common form of heating.
Autumn has come to Antakya. The harsh edge of summer has been removed and it unobtrusively fades from our memory. For the next month, we have the delights and pleasantness of this milder weather to enjoy.
Life, time, seasons, all roll invariably onwards…
It remains important to appreciate ‘now’. It is of no value, no profit, no benefit, to succumb to dismay, lamenting the soon onset of the hardships that winter naturally brings. There is no value in looking back to some time or place, longing after something that ‘was’ but ‘is no more’.
I am, after all, physically, in the present, and it is essential that I, consciously, live in the present – enjoying that which is before me today… the good and the bad…
It may be ‘easy’ in this particular season, to say “how pleasant” and to enjoy the “now”. But this season is short and all too soon it will succumb to inescapable realities of winter with its short, dark days, overcast vistas and being liberally visited by rain with the accompanying damp and cold. I can enjoy today, or by anticipating, I can embrace the unpleasantness of tomorrow, doing that today and suffering, in advance, vicariously as it were.
To be honest, winter is a season with its own beauties, delights and positive points, if one is open to looking for them.
The rains, true, bring dampness and a gloomy sense, but they also cleanse the air. It is astonishing how bright and light and clear and wondrous it is after a good rain and the air is crystal clear.
The rains cleanses the city, washing away all the detritus and muck that people seem to relish in tossing and leaving lying about.
The rains water and nourish the countryside, causing life to burst forth and turn the valley around us to a rich, verdant, luxurious green, brimming with life and hope and promise.
It is the will of Almighty God that we enjoy today, in all its pleasantness, and all its difficulties, for there are always difficulties.
It is His will that we enjoy tomorrow, with all its pleasantness and with all its differences – but in its’ own time, when it completes the transition from that which ‘will be’ to that which ‘is’.
Scripture says, “Now is the day of salvation” – it is essential to be cognisant, to be mindful, to wilfully be aware, to abide, to live, to relish, to acknowledge and to ‘be’ in the present…