Mercurial View of Autumn
My friend Kathy has a zine she likes to theme around the seasons.
She is a wonderful and nice person, and I’d like to have a poem about the seasons I could give to her to publish, but the minute I start thinking of seasons I stop finding anything poetic. It’s a problem with occasional poems quite generally, not just poems about seasons.
It’s as if poems about occasions are predictable, and the thing that makes a poem a poem more than anything else is the fact that it can’t be predicted. So, with the nature of seasons constrained, anything I write about them is predictable, and not very poetic.
I’ve written some poems where I talk about how the seasons are reversed in the southern hemisphere; and some others about how seasons are intermingled with the concepts of day and night at the poles (midnight sun and all that), but after a handful of those they start becoming pretty predictable, too.
So I started trying to think about what I didn’t think about on the subject, and the first thing I thought of was that I wouldn’t really know what it was like to not have seasons. And I thought, ‘this is good, this is good’, I haven’t ever thought about that.
And so I recalled that seasons are mostly caused by differences in angles, which sent me scurrying to the internet to find the relevant names: the ecliptic plane, and the earth’s equatorial plane. Seasons are mostly about the angle between those two planes.
So now we have the basis of a poem.
But I want to go deeper and start wondering if there are planets without such an anglular difference, and so back to the internets to discover that there is a huge variety among the angles for the different planets, with Uranus having a big tilt (no joke), and Mercury having no tilt.
So, Mercury doesn’t have any tilt-angle basis for seasons. As if that weren’t enough, Mercury doesn’t have an atmosphere, so it doesn’t have any basis for weather, either.
The lack of an atmosphere is a crazy thing. If there were polar ice caps on Mercury, they wouldn’t melt because the polls are dark, and about a hundred degrees below 0. Even as close to the sun as Mercury is, the polls are way below 0, because there is no atmosphere.
Loosely speaking, there is about a thousand degree difference between day and night on Mercury, and days last about half a Mercury year, or maybe a third, it gets complicated.
So, seasons tie us to the weather, and the angles of the cosmos, and the fact we are all sheltered and nourished by this big invisible sac of kinetic almost-nothingness with a lot of oxygen and nitrogen. And fall doesn’t even totally need to exist: planets without fall are readily imaginable.
So, thank you atmosphere. Thank you fall. Thank you existence of weather.
Thank you impossible writing assignment with no surprises: thanks for all you have taught me.
~ Terry Provost