September has always been my favourite month of the year, and not only because it is the month of my birth. When I lived in the Northeast, it was always the time of lots of blue skies, crisp, cool air, and that spectacular fall foliage. It was always a serious month, dealing with the end of things, and perhaps even thoughts of mortality. My mother has always vehemently been a Spring person, associating her birth month with rebirth, new blooms, the end of winter, more comfortable weather (although often not quite yet), and longer days. Nope, not for me. I’ll take a Fall walk in Vermont with the smell of wood fires over a muddy trek through a garden that’s maybe getting ready to get going.
These days, I can’t say that I love September quite as much. Vancouver doesn’t get those flashes of color in the trees and the air isn’t all that different, although you do have to start wearing a coat again. Instead, what’s in evidence is the switch back to the city of the mind from the city of the body. I’ve talked about Vancouver’s yearly pendulum swing between the hedonism of the spring and summer months and intellectual and artistic pursuits of the fall and winter months. This is not unique to Vancouver; my parents, who spend a lot of time in Paris, talk about ‘la rentrée’ (From the web site understandfrance.org):
For the French, the year does not begin January 1st! It begins in September and the beginning of the year is so unpleasant that it ruins the Summer vacations (no wonder the French need so much vacation during the rest of the year). It is called “la rentrée”, like in schools. Just imagine : in September, you receive the tax bill, kids start school and it is the period of the year where, traditionally, many strikes take place, particularly transport strikes (train, metro, etc.). It takes a few months to recover, then Christmas comes (nothing spectacular) then the “soldes” (sales, more interesting), then February vacation (very appreciated), then Easter vacation and the wonderful month of May, with its “bridges”. Then it is time to plan Summer vacation.
I’d say for Vancouver, it’s more like ‘le réveil’ (the reawakening); a time when you no longer spend the long afternoons that stretch into the evening at the beach or sitting in the park (or hiking up Grouse). Even though the summer did have some theatre, including the successful ‘Bard on the Beach’, there are now several festivals and concert seasons that are all set to begin. This past weekend, we made another short visit to the PNE (hardly big brain food, but after all, we were just getting started). I think I’ll always think of the PNE as a sort of farewell, to summer. After that, The Vancouver Fringe Festival, which includes 10 days of entertaining and sometimes challenging evenings of theatre, mostly on Granville Island stages, starts in 3 days. Just 11 days after that, the 25th Annual Vancouver International Film festival, including some 300 shorts and features from over fifty countries (and a quarter of the films this year are non-fiction — which I guess means Documentaries in most cases). At the end of the month, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra opens their season with Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben. So as you can see, everything starts up, and not quite in the way that the French do it.
I’m a big culture vulture, so I’m thrilled that this is all happening, and if it is in part because it’s not going to be so nice out and the sun is going to set earlier and earlier, then, so be it. My mind is tired of being on vacation.