Half past eight in early September and it is dark. It is really quite strange when that transition from summer to autumn makes itself felt so pointedly. It begins with an almost unseen change in the quality of the green leaves as they edge towards turning, then it is almost as if there is a change overnight and you wake to a summer that has flown as the birds are ready to fly, seeking warmer climes. Berries are heavy on the trees and in the hedgerows, and the first roseate blush edges the leaves damp with mist. A few more days will see autumn unveil her palette of russet and gold, but for now we hover between the seasons.
It has that same breathless quality that attends every transition; like the teenager poised between the child they have been and the adult they will become. Neither the rules by which the child has been bound nor those to which the adult will subscribe, through choice or necessity, yet hold sway, though both seem to call. Or the time when the last years of youth give way to a more mature wisdom, yet folly can pull you either way or both. So it is with this time of year, where the warmth of summer or the golden mists of autumn may attend each dawn.
Yet each season is held with the one that gives it birth. Each autumnal morning remembers in gilded softness the summer glow as the seeds and berries echo the flowers that brought them into being. As the green fades to gold, the crisp fallen leaves foreshadow the stark, skeletal silhouettes of winter, and every soft dewfall prefigures the frosts of winter; while in the winter womb of earth spring is born in silence, preparing the crescendo of summer. There are no clear demarcations, just a growing awareness. Summer may be long or short, autumn come in quickly or creep in softly, almost unnoticed. We do not know, cannot tell by rule or date, only by observing the natural flow of life.
And so it goes, the wheel of the year turning, cycling through the seasons. With every year we move from our own spring to our own winter, and we too are left with only the current of our lives and hearts to guide us. There are no dates for our personal transitions… we cross those unseen boundaries each in our own time; the rites of passage are different for every one of us, and while some hold to the familiar past, others stand poised on the brink with their wings outstretched ready to fly.
Yet we are odd creatures. Small children are simply themselves. Teenagers long to be seen as adults, adults wish they were still children while the the old look back and smile… when the weather plays those games we all complain and call it unseasonable. It is not behaving as expected for the time of year. Yet we seek those changes instead of accepting the flow of life that moves us when it is ready into the next stretch of the stream.
The wheel of the year is a great teacher. There can be warm, sunny days in winter and cold, rainy summers. What we expect, what is ‘usual’, does not always happen… but it is natural. We do not control the weather or the forces of nature that shape it, any more than we can control all the events which act upon our lives. A childhood may be less than carefree, full of tears; maturity a time of playful laughter and a childlike lightness… our own lives have that capacity to surprise us and to change in unexpected ways. We can only be ready to listen to the moment and accept what it offers.
We tend to think these days of four seasons… not unlike the four ages of man; childhood, youth, middle and old age…but we have not always counted them thus. The oldest calendars are based on a view, older still, that the year was simply divided into light and dark. Other calendars name up to eight seasons, marking the transitions that are the turning points, by watching the world and seeing how life grows and moves. Perhaps there is a simpler way of looking at it. We could simply say that the year needs no seasonal full stop and capital letter to mark the transitions, for the whole process is simply one thing… growth. Even in the darkest days the seeds of spring are burgeoning unseen in the dark earth. Even in apparent death life is being brought to birth. It doesn’t matter to the Earth what the weather does… it matters only to we who walk upon it and look to it for sustenance and shelter. Perhaps that too is analogous with our own lives; the daily storms, bouts of sunshine or dark, gloomy days may be unpleasant to live through, may damage the crops we had planted and hoped one day to reap or the edifices of the personality in which we live, yet perhaps to the fertile earth of the soul, this is simply nature at work, shaping and preparing us for a growth that is as inevitable and as beautiful as spring.