The Changing Seasons
I realize the autumnal equinox has not happened yet, but my body can already feel things changing. I am sure you too have noticed it getting darker earlier. The early morning and early evening break in the heat. A few leaves even beginning to turn.
Some children are already back at school. College students are getting ready to move in, and parents to feel that empty nest.
Something in me is already starting to hunker down, to gather in, to long for hibernation.
Just as the earth has its changing seasons, so also does life.
I remember entering a botanical meditational garden when I was in Vancouver. The path began with nine large, flat stepping stones, which took one across a small but rushing stream. My guide told me these stones represented the months of pregnancy, then the crossing of the rushing stream as the process of birth. The next section of the gardens was lush, bursting with vibrant colors and fragrance. This part of the gardens represented childhood, filled with huge changes, and vibrant exuberant life. Following that, I came to a wide open expanse, a meadow, filled with wild flowers.
This represented the wandering stage of adolescence, where all of life feels wide, open, and expansive. One then came to a fork in the path. One side of the fork led over a bridge to a gazebo, the other to another whole section of the garden. This represented the choice of marriage, or not, the island of the gazebo representing the shelter and containment, the oasis and contentment of marriage.
But one could choose marriage, or not. I remember this section of the garden was also the most orderly, organized, representing the stage of life where we focus on our career, on ordering and organizing our lives. From there many different paths emerged. As I meandered along, I thought of the various paths we can take in our lives, in terms of our careers but also meaningful work we do because we love it. Perhaps this could also represent continued education and creative and artistic endeavors, learning, traveling, growing, expanding. But at last the path began to narrow, and I came upon a peaceful pool, surrounded by rocks and a few singular plants. There was a stone bench on which I sat. Behind the bench was a kind of fountain, that had only a small trickle of water passing through it. My guide explained that this was for the final stage of life, when the flow ebbs to that small, gentle trickle, till it is no more.
Last weekend, I shared the sacrament of holy baptism with two young children. Later this morning, I officiate at the funeral of a woman who lived to be ninety-five years old. As a pastor, I am honored and privileged to accompany people through the whole journey of this life. We have a baptismal song which is about God being with us through the whole journey of this life: through our birth and early childhood, the springtime of life; through the wide-open expanse, the struggles and choices of adolescence;
through the summer season of adulthood, through relationships, and perhaps marriage; through the season of being fruitful, of having children and watching them grow; of building our careers and homes, through the season of autumn, of deeper learning, creating, expanding; through the season of realizing what needs to be gathered in, and what needs to be let go; finally, through the winter of clarity, focus, simplifying;
the season of starkness, of growing smaller, and of the ultimate letting go, the gentle trickle ebbing into one final droplet.Spring has always been my favorite season, the scents, the colors, the green buds, the new birth, the whole earth bursting into new life.
I spent yesterday with my three-year-old granddaughter, Sylvie, whom we had not seen in a couple of weeks. In just a few weeks, she has changed, grown, expanded exponentially in her vocabulary and abilities. When I walked in she exclaimed, “Oh! You startled me!” (“Startled”? from a three-year old?) Just a few days ago, I went to the cemetery to remember my father on his birthday, to put flowers on my parents’ grave, to cry, to grieve.
I am not sure why, but I am looking forward to fall, even though I previously have not really appreciated this season. Perhaps it is because that is the season of my life which I am now entering. Each stage has its gifts and challenges, which are not fully understood until you arrive in that place.
How about you? As our beloved earth shifts us into the season of autumn, what lessons can you learn from this season to apply to your own life? What things do you need to gather in? What things do you need to let go of?
This day, whatever season of life you are in, may you open yourself to this season of autumn, with its vibrant burst of colors, its letting-goes, and its gathering in of abundant harvests.
May you see God’s presence in all you encounter,
and may you reflect God’s presence to all you encounter.
Linda Forsberg, Copyright September 2, 2015
Photos: Holy Family Retreat Center, West Springfield; Sequoia National Park; Glacier National Park; Hilo, Big Island,HI; Multnomah Fall, OR; Zach and Victoria, Mother’s Day, Norman bird Sanctuary, Newport, RI; Rocky Mountain National Park, CO; Easter Sunday Kids’ Sermon, First Lutheran Church of East Greenwich, RI; Dam at Hetch Hetchy National Park, OR