Deandra Lieberman, Staff Writer
When bored University of Dallas students seek fodder for idle criticism, Texan weather too often presents itself for attack. Comparing it with their home climates, many students are appalled by our blistering summers and snowless winters. Yet because I’m one of those who grew up calling dead armadillos “speed bumps” (so, because I’m a Texan), I’ve learned to recognize the beauty of Texas as often subtle and sometimes overshadowed, but seldom wholly absent. Since I’d feel bad for anyone who left Texas with nothing good to say of it, I’d like now to illuminate one aspect of Texas that has nurtured in my heart a gigantic love of this state: its seasons. This article is not comprehensive. I have lived in Tyler, the Rose Capital in the Piney Woods; and I have lived in Irving. As such, I can only celebrate my fragment of the Texas year.
Now, around here, the seasons lack some of the drama of locations at more extreme latitudes. Our winters are not frozen darkness and, although we share summertime temperatures with places such as Africa and the planet Mercury, we are not blessed with perpetual daylight. But we do have four clearly defined seasons (which, in Texas, are characterized by exceptions like the present wintry sauna) that generally maintain their common characteristics from year to year; and although, on the whole, our year is warmer, perhaps less startlingly beautiful, than those of other places, it is not lacking in the natural change that gives character to our yearly trip around the sun and colors every moment with felt memories.
Even our infernal summers merit praise. For one thing, were summer more mild, we’d be denied the pleasure of bewailing it. But I’ve found, too, that when I’m chilled by the Arctic tundra of summertime indoor AC abuse, it becomes easier to love the natural, humid summer heat that waits beyond each door to welcome me. The heavy heat that sinks into the spine is comforting in its constancy. Because each day is hot and long, without so much variety as fall or spring, summer gives a reassuring sense of timelessness. At night, the heat softens; friends gathered outdoors laughing in the starry evening feel themselves part and parcel of the night.
Now, few dispute the beauty of fall and spring. To be frank, autumn makes the summer stop and could be loved for that alone. After solid months of solid heat, a cool wind is what assures you that the flow of time can carry joy. The falling temperatures, so much more than mere reprieves from the heat, unburden the world. The light crispness in the air leaves me nostalgic and utterly giddy.
It often seems that, in Irving, autumn has nearly passed by the time the trees remember that they ought to have dressed for the occasion; in one fell swoop they brown and the leaves begin their descents. I’ve noticed that even the colorful trees on this campus tend toward modest hues. At home, where the leaves change much earlier on, they also turn to brighter shades, so that from a hilltop the panorama shows a sea of green pines interspersed with daring browns and vivid yellows and reds rising and falling with the terrain. Yet our calmer foliage here ought not be slighted. The humble fading of the leaves should be a lesson and a lure: Where nothing screams for notice, a patient search for beauty is perfected.
Amid the chilly warmths of spring, the world becomes “mud luscious” and “puddle-wonderful” with the falling rains that smell of earthy grass. The world, wet, then damp, bursts with life. Trees you really just haven’t noticed in months treble in volume with dense green leaves. At home, the azaleas bloom and wildflowers paint the pastures yellow and blue. The sunlight is fresh, new, in a manner suggestive of morning, no matter the time of day. The clouds, often pregnant with rain, are heavy and fill the boundless Texan sky with a clear grayness that makes the green of the trees stand out like flowers. And at times, the winds scatter or cluster the clouds, piercing the cloud cover with rays of sunshine, or revealing patches of brilliant blue.
I have long been of the absolutely subjective and unfounded opinion that, in the rural parts of Texas certainly, but even here in Irving, nothing makes the stars more quietly, compellingly bright than the cold stillness of winter. Many will be surprised to learn that Texas has this natural season between fall and spring (though many are aware of “Christmastime” as a season in itself). Areas like the Panhandle or West Texas do get snow, but in Irving and Tyler, it is more common for the streets to ice over than for the trees to droop with snow. When it snows even a little, drivers stay in and the town closes down in a panicked, unofficial holiday laughable to sturdy Northerners. And yet, with ordinary business suspended, you ‘ll find these Texans crunching through their lawns and laughing with gleeful amazement at a beautiful landscape that they’ve never learned to take for granted. And when it does not snow – which is almost always – cloudless winter evenings are instead characterized by an absolutely ethereal stillness beneath the quiet stars.
So, today, disparage not the reluctant autumn, nor complain of the lingering heat or unpredictable chills. There is a beauty here in every day, and Texas does nothing if not teach you how to seek it.