Things of Latvia: This time of the year

Seeing as laiks, the word for time, also means 'weather', Latvians obviously have an intimate relationship with the elements and eternity.

It also means that you can justify pretty much everything with reference to Chronos' relentless march, and people will nod understandingly at whatever you say. 

This came to my attention when a friend referred to November as the 'drinking days'.

Truer words may not have been spoken -- indeed, November is calcified in the Latvian psyche as the most dreadful time of the year. This means we need all the help we can get.

The skies are an unforgiving gray, and the dead Veļi roam the realms of the living, as if the dormant land had confused itself for their eternal home. 

Doomsday films usually convey a general atmosphere of hysteria, but November, which is the annual end of the world this part of the globe, actually sees Latvians at their most relaxed and supportive, in a remarkable feat of solidarity against time/weather.

It's alright to drink November away, we tell the poet friend who may have a drinking problem...

Of course, there's also spring, summer, fall and winter (November being the fifth season). These too have their own place and their own consequences.

In spring, everyone's too winter-weary to care much about anything at all. The Latvian summer is, if not a lie, then a half-truth; the lush green of Latvia's parks and forests may be bursting like there's no tomorrow, but if anyone is already transfixed by the impermanence of things, it's us.

The fall has a more truthful ring to it, with its long violin sobs and the dead leaves reminding us of what we have waiting in the future. To its credit, the fall has none of the eternal life pretensions that summer and spring have, but a rounded and mature take on the balance of life and death. 

And then there's the big freeze that usually comes in late January to mid-February. 

You could compare it to solitary confinement: in the cold, the abstract of time suddenly takes on a new, almost concrete dimension. It's like finally seeing the real thing. Like tasting dark chocolate for the very first time..

Kids stop going to school. Promises are broken, agreements postponed, and weddings cancelled. Someone calls you and says: "Well, I can't bring myself to repay you. The online bank has frozen over.''

You nod with deeply felt understanding and look outside at the cold graceful emptiness that knows us. 

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