I finally gave in. Against the advice of friends, and despite the increasingly obvious signs of the utter futility of it, I held out for two whole weeks. Ultimately however, I had to concede that summer was well and truly over, and then put on a jacket.
It’s the strangest phenomenon. Every year, at the onset of spring, a mass delusion overtakes the city’s student population. At the first ray of sunshine, every memory of winter melts away. This collective amnesia persists till October, when we are caught off guard by a cold breeze, and begin to say silly things like, “It’s really getting chilly, isn’t it?”
For many, it’s a time of welcome rest after the hectic holiday months. Time to sit by the heater in warm clothes, with a good book and a cup of tea, after a long afternoon’s labour. Others, however, just can’t seem to shake the inherent melancholy of the season.
There’s something about autumn. A pensive hush falls over the city. Perhaps, it’s the shortening daylight, or the nip in the air, or the leaves turning rich shades of red and yellow, only to fall away. More likely, it’s the long evenings spent indoors, left to our own devices.
Things finally make sense again: cafés are for studying, and the library for socialising
Yet this autumn is unlike any other. While the vegetation withers and recedes from the landscape, Groningen is creeping back to life. With the end of social distancing, sanity has returned to the city. Things finally make sense again: cafés are for studying, and the library for socialising.
Like getting back on a bike after a long stint away from this beautiful country, being in close proximity to people takes some getting used to. First to see one another as people again, as opposed to potential biohazards, and then to thaw our icy, brutalised hearts to allow others into our space, and our lives.
It’s only when we’ve regained it that we realise how malnourished we were by the lack of social contact. Solomon declares in Proverbs 27 verse 9: “Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel”. Looking back on the past few months, I couldn’t agree more.
The autumn blues have been hovering above my head for a while now. Homesickness, and the (few) stresses of student life only seem to bring it closer. Yet, a small, but veritable army keeps it safely at bay.