Today marks the start of meteorological Spring here in the southern hemisphere, with astronomical Spring on the equinox (23 September). Here in Cape Town we experience the onset of the bitterly cold Spring southeaster, that notorious prevailing wind that howls through alleyways, slams every open door and blows trucks over on the Foreshore. It is a wind that brings out the worst in us, with tempers fraying and fingers freezing as it sweeps across the Peninsula in an ever-increasing gale. A blustery northwester doesn’t have the chill factor of a southeaster and is an exhilarating experience, but the Antarctic influence on our summer wind sends us scurrying indoors as leaves swirl and gather in corners and that scourge of society, the plastic bag, adorns bushes that catch them on their airborne journey.
Yet with it comes the renewal of the circle of life, the budding of new leaves on bare branches, carpets of colour across the mountains, an in-built instinct to spring-clean (even if only for a day) to refresh the home and setting off to the nursery in search of pansies and petunias to splash colour across the brown earth of winter. The bright coral colours of clivias are peeking out between the strappy leaves in the deep shade and soon the fragrant scent of the buddleia will waft through the air as bees and butterflies swarm and flit among the lilac blossoms that hang heavy on its slender shoots – surely one of nature’s greatest sensory delights.
The low grey strands of cloud that bring our rains will be replaced by puffs of white cloaking the highest peaks (a valuable source of year-round water for our fynbos) and the pale blue skies of winter deepen to unblemished cerulean as smog and pollution disperse ahead of the Cape Doctor. Perhaps the sun will temper the chill – as Capetonians, we are accustomed to all four seasons in one day, with sunshine being the winner most times!