Swapping Bruegel for Altdorfer

After more than a month as an official Seattleite, life is finally starting to take on a rhythm and things are beginning to feel normal. Still, there are things that are taking some getting used to. There are wonderful things that I’m not sure I’ll ever take for granted, and less wonderful things that I’m waiting to get used to.

Wonderful things: On the drive to my son’s new daycare, I go over a crest that provides a knockout view of the Cascade Mountains. I do this almost every day, but I am overcome with that feeling—a je ne sais quoi, a lump in my throat, butterflies in my stomach—each time I go over the crest. It’s the same feeling I get when I listen to Pavarotti singing “Nessun Dorma,” which gets me every damn time. It’s the same feeling I got when I saw Bernini’s famous trio of sculptures at the Borghese Gallery in Rome: David, Pluto and Proserpina, and Apollo and Daphne. Driving home in the other direction over the crest, I get a similarly knockout view of the Olympic Mountains to the west. I feel incredibly lucky every time.

This city is lush. There are pine trees everywhere and it smells like camp. There are about as many crows as there are pine trees, a sure signal I’m back in the North. It reminds me of my childhood in Moscow and my brief stint in Minneapolis. It’s a sign that I’ve returned to something. Have I finally come home?

I love all of this. That said the climate is going to take some getting used to. Yeah, it rains a lot. I don’t care about that. I love “bad” weather. What gets me is the feeling that we exist outside of the seasons somehow. On this, the third day into September, I was already wearing a fleece vest over a sweater. I hate hot, humid, stickiness, but I love the energy of late summer when things begin to change, almost imperceptibly. In every place I’ve lived up to now, this is the time of year when the humidity starts to dissipate and the heat loosens its grip on the world, if only slightly. The cicadas and crickets thrum day and night. That sound has always, always been music to my ears. (See above, re: “that feeling.”) It signals state fairs and back-to-school and the sense that Fallisjustaroundthecornersoenjoythiswhileitlasts… This year my ears only hear the cawing of crows.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Harvesters, 1565
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Harvesters, 1565

Since everything in my life reminds me of a work of art, I’ve been looking at Pieter Bruegel’s paintings of the seasons to cheer myself up. Pieter Bruegel is one of my favorite artists, and The Harvesters gives me a little taste of the late summer energy I’m so missing. Are there cicadas and crickets in Belgium? I have no idea, but I’m certain they’re thrumming loudly in this painting. I can feel the drier air and slightly cooler temperatures and the strong, but pleasant warmth of the sun. Bruegel’s Hunters in the Snow, from the same series, is another of my favorites. I’m sure I’ll be looking at it a lot come December and January when I’m longing for dipping temperatures and piles of snow.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Hunters in the Snow, 1565
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Hunters in the Snow, 1565

Forgive this Midwestern native her bellyaching. Seasonal weather aside, Seattle is amazing. If I’ve given up Bruegel’s seasons, I’ve certainly gained Albrecht Altdorfer’s Alpine landscapes. I really have no right to complain.

Albrecht Altdorfer, Danube Landscape near Regensburg, 1528
Albrecht Altdorfer, Danube Landscape near Regensburg, 1528

2 thoughts on “Swapping Bruegel for Altdorfer

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