I’m not one of those people. I love the autumn with stubborn conviction, although I’m aware that I’m probably biased because I was born in it. A few days ago, I had a my first Starbucks drink in years (I don’t actively dislike them, but other places are often quieter and the coffee is in my opinion not worth a longer wait). It was a Pumpkin Spiced Latte.
I know. I am always of the opinion that these kinds of drinks are not so much coffee as well as they are liquid pastry (which is fine if you’re craving sugar), but I bought it because of the tag-line (and because I was craving sugar). “Blij dat de zomer voorbij is” it is in Dutch: “Happy the summer is over”.
So strong is my love of autumn and my quite defiance against summer. Highly hypocritical, by the way, because I like sitting in the warm sun as much as anybody. But there is just something about Dutch autumn… the awful combination of cold drafts and wet drizzles, with sometimes a good rain shower in between. People stubbornly biking to their work with their hair glued to their faces despite their large raincoats, or pedestrians struggling with umbrella’s on the sidewalks. Grey skies. Grey water. Grey trees.
I live in Amsterdam now, and the city mainly gets depressing, it is true. But in my mind, autumn is tied to the place where I grew up, a small village at the North Sea, with trees and dunes and beach a stone’s throw away. Growing up close to a popular Dutch beach has the strange effect of making you appreciate beaches more in autumn, winter and spring then in summer. Summer is hot, crowded, screaming children, stupid holiday goers who think it is a good idea to smoke weed in the burning sun and not drink water.
At other times, however, the beach is quiet, sand and sea and small clusters of people walking along the waterline. Lots of dogs, but they’re not interested in bugging you because the beach is their heaven, there is so much else to do. And you kick at the foam a little, and you walk along the waterline, and then you turn inland and you walk among the dunes and the trees in autumn, which is the best season for dunes and trees by far.
There is a Dutch word, ‘uitwaaien’, which I think is often named as an unique one to the language (together with ‘gezellig’). It means going outside in ‘bad’ weather – if you take the word literally there has to be wind, but a slight rain will do as well, or both – for it’s own sake. Most of the time just because you felt sleepy sitting in your stuffy, warm house, and you want a fresh head. Or you’ve just eaten and you want to combat the after-dinner-dip. The word has connotations of battling the elements, feeling strong for carrying on through wind and rain. ‘Uitwaaien’ works best in autumn.
After ‘uitwaaien’, I like to go inside, make a fire in the hearth if there is one, light candles, curl up on the couch with my boyfriend, eat buckets of spice-nuts (also typically Dutch, I think?), drink hot dark chocolate with red pepper, and read my favorite autumnal book for the 6435th time: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke.
I’m so happy the summer is over.