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The content of our winter

  • 24 May 2022
  Next week we officially enter winter. The associations of winter are largely negative. They mourn the loss of the summer that has passed. For that reason it may seem incongruous that winter should begin immediately after a Federal Election campaign that ended with the excitement of the people’s choice of a new Government. The potential for a new beginning might fit better with spring.

Certainly many of the cultural associations of winter are sombre. They speak of cold, dull days, of fallen leaves turning to mulch, of bare trees, of the chance of snow, of more time spent indoors. One of the phrases used to describe a human caused apocalypse is the nuclear winter. Those images, which are characteristic of our European cultural heritage, resonate with the southern states of Australia. For the northern regions, however, winter has become the time when the song of tourists is heard in the land and its seaside towns hopefully flow with milk and honey.

The reality of winter, of course, is more mixed. Before corporate interests made its season a business for all seasons, football was identified with winter. Winter is also the time when a house becomes a home, a warm place to welcome with hot soup those who come in from the cold. It is also a time to treasure the occasional sunny day and Indian Summer. The number of poems written about winter, too, suggests that it is a time of reflection, of slowing down, of asking what matters most deeply, of attending to necessary grieving. It is a season in human living, a season that seasons the spirit.     

In that respect the coming of winter after the election is appropriate. The hyperbole and vacuousness of the election campaign confirmed the ending of a season in public life when gaudy leaves had been falling and were corrupting into mulch. The mismatch between the large challenges facing Australia and the pusillanimous proposals to address them will inevitably become clear in coming years. For many Australians already doing it hard it will be a lean and wintry time.

Winter can be a time of depressed spirits and of escape. A time for heavy drinking to forget the cheerlessness of a chilly world, a time for shutting the door against the public world and to focus on ourselves and our discontents. It can be better spent, however, in reflection and in planning for spring. We may take