About Me

My name is Tom Cooper. I am the director of a medium-sized public library in a suburb of St. Louis County, Missouri. I have always lived in the St. Louis area.

Years ago, I began to ponder a simple question: why is autumn the only season, among four seasons, that has two names? I would occasionally take a few minutes and research this question. I work in a library, after all, and research is as easy as walking out my office door and into the Reference Room. What I found was that there is no simple explanation for why Americans–and it is predominantly Americans–say ‘fall’ย  instead of ‘autumn,’ and have no other names for the other seasons.

Eventually I found that my interest in the seasons as phenomena in themselves was growing. Through all the changes there have ever been on Earth, there have always been seasons. The seasons have greatly influenced everything about human life, from the development of civilization to religion to government, science and economics–even war! Nothing happens without some aspect of seasonal influence.

For years now I have been researching the effects of the seasons on human life and culture, and working on a book called The Varied God: On the Human Experience of the Seasons. The title comes from a poem by the 18th century Scottish poet James Thomson, who wrote a famous and influentual suite of poems called The Seasons. He also wrote a sort of coda to this major work, a short poem called A Hymn to the Seasons, and this is a famous line from that poem.

Who knows if I’ll ever finish my book? In the meantime, I hope to share here some of my thoughts and some of the things I’ve learned. I hope you enjoy these musings.

17 thoughts on “About Me”

  1. Thought you would find this interesting….

    Sorry the link is so long – if it doesn’t work try googling
    Rebecca Chesney | Hope’s Whisper

    • This was an interesting post. I have been compiling notes for a later chapter of my book about naturalistic authors for whom the seasons were more than a setting; they were cause and effect in their stories. One of the best examples is Willa Cather, in novels such as My Antonia. This is a good addition–I’ll have to read some more Bronte works.

      Thanks for this.

      Tom Cooper, Director Webster Groves Public Library 3232 S. Brentwood Blvd. Webster Groves,MO 63119 314 961-3784 tcooper@wgpl.org

  2. Hadn’t heard of Willa Cather and will look out for My Antonia. I am not myself a great fan of the Brontes and confess that I hate Wuthering Heights, but if you haven’t read it I think much more highly of Shirley (by Charlotte) which is rather less known and I can’t think why. As I write this rain is pouring down, clouds have completely covered the hills and the streets are running with water. It’s been doing this on and off for days – in fact, weeks. I can imagine what this would have done to the Brontes.

    • Years ago I worked at St. Louis Public Library’s Central Library downtown. It is a huge, striking edifice from around 1907. Around its frieze are carved the names of great authors (or those thought to be great in 1907). My office was on the second floor, my window just above the carved name The Brontes. My first attempt at a blog was something I called Above the Brontes. I soon learned that people thought I meant that I was above reading their works. Funny. We are in the midst of a drought here, with record-breaking temperatures, 110 today (about 42 to you?). Nice to hear about your rainfall.

  3. I do hope you finish your book. I would buy that, and read it. My life revolves around the seasons. I love living in the Pacific Northwest particularly because, I can experience all four seasons every year. (Though in my particular location winter is a bit mild; not enough snow.) As for why we have two names for Autumn? Because it is the finest, most robust, most golden season of the year…(and for most of my life, I considered myself a summer person). I love all the seasons. I just love Autumn a little bit more.

  4. I nominated you for an award, my friend. Feel free to do a celebratory (clothing-optional) dance in your living room. Or something. http://mrsfever.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/hunh-whattaya-know/

  5. Hi Tom! I nominated you for a Liebster Award ๐Ÿ™‚ If you want to check it out, visit http://dutchwitch.wordpress.com/

  6. Tom,

    I nominated you for Bog of the Year 2013. I so enjoy your writing!

  7. An interesting thing about seasons is that at one point they might have been counted sort of as years. When our ancestors where not so worried with actual birthdays. I was at a lecture once, somewhere that used that explanation to account for the great ages of biblical characters. And also just to add that sometimes more than just four seasons were recognized. So if you take someone who was supposed to be 100 and divide that by four, five or even six… that makes for a more reasonable ‘age’ of our elders who were known to have shorter life spans just because of how they lived within the environment of their time.

    Thanks for visiting the Quickly prompt; drink: Sustenance.

    • That’s very interesting, and something I had not heard. But of course history across cultures has held many different ways to count time. I will follow up on this; I have lots of Biblical research in my book so far. Thanks for sending.

      • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indigenous_Australian_seasons – I counted six

        Definitely six here:

        http://www.telshemesh.org/eight/ And there are eight seasons here, revolving around nature.

        I think I also remember reading that with nomadic peoples that they may have counted a year with every successful desert crossing, which could have happened in different amounts in different ‘365’ year counts.

        Also remember that the original Greek calendar only had 10 months. Because of the addition of July for Julius and August for Augustus (I think) in the summer our months of September (sept =7) October (Octo = 8), November (nove = 9) and December (Dec = 10) have been thrown off course. So if the original year had only ten months (not sure how extra days or the lunar cycles worked int) that would also shorten the life and time span of recorded ages.

        Just googling how time was kept before the common era is interesting reading too.

      • Now you’re getting into things I’ve researched and written about already. In the introduction to my book I write about the north coast aborigines, who differentiate 6 seasons, while the European settlers there only recognize 2, a wet and a dry season. And I have a chapter on the history of the calendar and how our modern calendar has wandered from any actual association with the seasonal year (what really begins on January 1? Nothing!) One of the most interesting seasonal breakdowns of the year is in the Japanese sekki (derived from ancient Chinese jieki), which divides the year into no fewer than 24 climatic designations! They are beautifully named, but I wonder how often they harmonize with reality.

      • Humans and reality. Humans who seem to have to have an explanation for what can’t be explained. The Amish near by where I live, do not wear watches (maybe the ones now in merchandising do?) – And yet for shunning the ‘English’ ways they too are very human.

        Continued success with your research and your book ๐Ÿ™‚ I write mostly about my own observations and quite a bit of fiction too ๐Ÿ˜‰

  8. Dear Tom, Thank you so much for introducing me to the social side of blogging. For years I have been writing, but not sharing. Now as I continue my journey with new posts, people may find my archives because of the tags and categories you introduced me to.
    I love your reflections on the seasons. As a Forester I recognized spring and fall/autumn as fire season–hot, dirty, colorful and exciting. Summers were just plain hot, buggy, and beautiful. Winter, when the trees lost their leaves standing in all their glory, that is a wow season.
    I am trying to follow others but I think I only succeeded with one so far. I’ll be back in class. Thank you, Charlotte

    • You’re so welcome. I’m enjoying reading your posts. Maybe we’ll talk more about your unique experiences of the seasons.

      • This afternoon I visited our little urban Arboretum to notice the butterfly bush blossoms were mostly gone to seed except for small ones that were keeping honeybees busy. The monarch butterflies have gone south.
        The basketball-size flower clusters of the seventh sons flower (Tree) are covered with native(?) bumblebees. The goldenrod blossoms are breathtaking.
        What a dull world it would be without hormones?

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