Sunday, October 25, 2015

Summer Fall Winter Spring

In a temperate climate (one with four seasons), we take summer for granted. Where I live, it lasts a relatively short time - full of hot and humid days, hot and humid nights, broken only by rain ranging from gentle to torrential. In the fall, the temperatures begin to descend, the humidity gradually departs accompanied by still more rain, the migratory birds leave in groups, and the plants prepare for hibernation.  In the winter, which (here) lasts the longest of all of the seasons, the temperatures plummet and rain falls in the form of snow - sometimes little, sometimes much - and most people (and animals) hole up until it passes. And in the spring, which starts later than the calendar says it does, temperatures creep upward, the snow and ice melt, birds return, and there is a hint (growing ever stronger) of fresh green grass as the stiff ground yields under our feet.

Throughout the seasons stand the deciduous trees - graceful or gnarled, tall or squat, their beauty is unsurpassed. They are the first to signal the changes in season - in summer, their seeds have fallen and their leaf colour deepens, and their canopies grow large and shade those who wish to seek the shade; in fall, they produce less chlorophyll and their hidden colours emerge before the leaves dry out and fall; in winter, they patiently wait, sap frozen in a state of suspended animation, and long before the first blade of grass, the sap starts to flow and their branches are pregnant with new life.  

Photo "Autumn Gold" provided by
Simon Howden at
So like the stages of life.  It seems that in our prime, when we are flourishing and thriving, we provide automatic shelter for those who need help - until they don't anymore, and our little ones, the ones we protected for so long, fly away.  Then, the colours of our life emerge as we stop trying to rely on ourselves and just relax and let go - the beauty is indescribable and yet, we are so often unaware of it.  Eventually, the moment comes when we let go completely, and fly away ourselves.  What is left behind is a cold reality for those left behind - the grief of winter, where nothing moves except the frigid winds of loneliness and despair.  Sometimes, all that can be hoped for is to endure - endure until the spring comes ... for it always comes, even though the winter seems the longest. 

And then comes the shift in the wind, the warming of the earth, the imperceptible lengthening of the days.  And it is the trees - bless them, they have not died as it appeared - which burgeon with hope, and in the very spot vacated by the leaves that departed months ago, new shoots form, unseen except for the swelling promise: buds from which will eventually burst new leaves and seeds for the next generation. 

Photo "Maple Seeds" courtesy of
Carlos Porto at
Those who have died have flown, and in fact, nourish the new growth of those who come after - a never-ending cycle of birth, growth, life, maturity, death, grief, and rebirth, - all showing us that it is not an end when circumstances change.  There is only change.  Though change is hard to endure, it is one of the unchanging things about life.

The sap still lives; the sun still gives light and (though it does not seem so in winter) warmth to sustain us.  And in the very spot where once there was loss, there will be that spark of life, even though it might look like it is dead and hopeless now.  There is hope.  Life is eternal.  The container, the manifestation of life may disappear, but it does not mean that life ceases to exist.  It only means that it has changed form.  And someday too, we will join in the dance and learn for ourselves what it is to change form, to fly away and in so doing, nurture those yet to come.

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