The other month I wrote about learning to appreciate the seasons, specifically the fall and winter, whose fading sunlight and chilly air often fill me with sadness. I wanted to approach this changing season with a more positive outlook but I honestly wasn’t sure quite how to do that. How could I learn to look forward to the year’s darkening drop into winter, a season that, after the holidays, I just barely tolerate? How could I keep pace with the rhythm of the seasons, as they unfolded into cold? And then I realized that, in a way, I was already doing just that.
Appreciating the Change
My daughter attends a preschool on a nature preserve and two days a week, after we drop her off at school, my son and I take a short hike on the same easy trail together. When we first started our walks, in the beginning of September, the sides of the path were teeming with raspberry brambles and drying seedpods, but the paths themselves were almost bare, littered here and there with a few stray sticks or scattered petals and interrupted with the bumps of tree roots.
A month into our walks, the paths were carpeted by a soft blanket of newly fallen leaves. Now, at the end of our second month and well into autumn, the leaves across the path are crispy and dry. They crackle and swish as my feet move through them, and crunch underneath the soles of my shoes.
The treetops, when I look up, form a colorful patchwork of autumn leaves, their yellows, peaches, reds and greens lit by the sun, glowing like light through stained glass. The whole path seems sanctified, removed from our usual morning hecticness. And in fact a kind of a reverence is needed here, to stop the usual stream of chatter I direct at my one year old and just listen, both of our faces turned up to the brilliance of the blue sky and the twirl of the parachuting maple pods.
The only other sounds are the wind through the tree tops, roaring like water and then ebbing away, and the sudden rustling of some small creature in the underbrush. I am aware of a bird passing above as its shadow falls across us; my eyes catch on the crystal threads the spiders have started to hang. The change of the seasons has been natural for me this year, and I know a big part of this is that every week I make this time to just be part of that change.
To be quiet, to look and listen and breathe the different smells of the air that each passing week brings. I have a greater appreciation for the beauty and the necessity of these changes when I take the time to pay attention to them as they happen. I feel more connected to the earth, more connected to what is taking place all around me.
Is there a place you can go to feel a part of the changing seasons? A walk in the neighborhood after dinner, noticing the seasonal decorations and shuffling through piles of dried leaves, raked to the curb? A break during work at a local park, where you can sit for even a few minutes and lose yourself in the drifting leaves and brisk air?
Taking even a few brief moments out of our week, we can allow our bodies to join in their natural rhythms, the rhythms of the planet we live on as it moves through its cycles. It is something many of us have forgotten, but in our bones we remember it, and it is vital for us to be reminded of.
We may not have the same seasons in different parts of the world, but we all go through some kind of change as the year unfolds, and being a present and appreciative part of it connects us to our world and to one another. I know the time I am taking to simply sit back and soak it all in is helping me feel this way.
And it is easy now, in the red and gold splendor of autumn; who knows what the bare and frost-packed earth of January will bring. Hopefully, the time I take each week to feel and observe as the earth spins in and of seasons will ease me more naturally into their changes, and continue to help me appreciate the beauty of them.