“Memories recycle of seasons past
of people absent and places far away.
I soothe myself with the solace of ritual.
There is comfort in repetition
and wonder in change.” — From the poem, The Solace of Ritual, Linda Lenzke
It has been and continues to be a hellavu week, a reminder of the power of nature — the relationship of the sun, moon, and earth — and how it impacts the weather. Beginning this past Monday in North America, we witnessed the total or partial eclipse of the sun, depending on where we landed on, or near, the path of totality.
Today, during the annual hurricane season, we watch what happens following Harvey, a Category 4 Hurricane, that destroyed the coastal community of Rockport when it made landfall late Friday night, and now, after being downgraded to a tropical storm, coupled with scores of tornadoes and hurricane-force rainfall, is projected to wreak havoc, devastation, and record-breaking flooding in Texas, especially the greater Houston area, and continue for a number of days ahead.
This normally marks my favorite time of year, the waning days of summer in the Midwest, right before children return to school, when days are sunny and warm, and cool evenings that may require a light jacket, or sweatpants. The quality and duration of the daylight changes, as does the relationship of the sun, moon, and earth. I normally schedule a staycation, a vacation at home this time of year.
What I’ve learned, the lessons from keeping and rereading journals, is that I’m a creature of habit. Though I allow my imagination to wander and travel places like a free spirit, I’m pretty earthbound and sensitive to the changing of the seasons, the length of daylight in a day, the heat of the sun on skin, the relationship of the stars and moon to our planet, the color of grass and leaves, the smell of the breeze as it changes from the smoky potpourri of autumn to the chilled neutrality of winter, followed by the musky odor of newly-turned earth and fragrant scent of flowers blooming in spring. And, finally, the conscious and unconscious cycles of life.
The changing of the seasons is a theme I often write about, both in my reminiscences and poetry. As edited my newest chapbook of collected poems, Seasons/Change (download here), I realized it was the perfect metaphor for talking about the seasons of a life and the changes that occur as we age.
The following is the introduction to the chapbook:
Living in the Midwest in Wisconsin, our lives ebb and flow with the changing seasons, sometimes winter is unrelenting and it’s a struggle just to get out the door for our day-to-day lives. We are restored in the spring when the changing weather brings us hope and quells the itchy restlessness of spring fever. Summer is our reward, a time for leisure and vacations. In the autumn, we reap the harvest of the land and prepare for the long, cold nights again, the cycles of change repeated.
For each of the seasons that follow, I include excerpts (in italics) from previously published Mixed Metaphors, Oh My! essays, reminiscences, and poems. At the end of the blog post are live links to the original content for further reading.
Spring is a time of rebirth, new beginnings, a season reflected in symbols of fertility. Spring is the season of youth and adolescence, a time of learning and exploring, young love, and dreams for the future.
It’s true, I came down with a case of spring fever again this year, beginning in February — the symptoms were clear: itchy restlessness, daydreaming, and questioning the choices in my life — wondering what the future holds for me. Desires and appetites grow stronger. I begin to wear clothes outdoors that are inappropriate for the weather, light jackets, short-sleeves, go sockless with canvas shoes or sandals with snow underfoot.
I wake up earlier in the morning and rise before dawn. I crack open the screen door to smell the earth begin to thaw, and watch the characteristics of the daylight change, the relationship of the sun to earth. Instead of reminiscing about the past, I’m more likely to think about the future and what lies ahead. I want to move, awaken my senses, feed my desires.
Summer is the season for play, for vacations and road trips, festivals and fairs. It symbolizes the sunny outlook of adulthood, when we begin our careers and start our families, build homes, and bonds with family and friends. It’s a time of the year and of our lives that we play as hard as we work.
Summer in the Midwest is typically a time to relax, hang out with friends and family, enjoy cookouts, spend as much time outside as possible, walk the Farmer’s Market on weekends, attend outdoor festivals and art fairs, and travel, whether a vacation or a Sunday road trip. When summer ends, the school year begins and family routines shift. It’s typically a time when I make new commitments to community organizations, or take a class and learn something new.
A road trip is a must do activity every season of the year and it’s especially wonderful in Wisconsin in the summertime and fall. A road trip with a coterie of friends makes it even more of an adventure, there’s never a lack of stories, lively debates, or insightful observations about our lives as we travel.
Autumn represents middle age, a time to reap the harvest, replenish pantries, and prepare for the long winter. Autumn is a time to both reflect on the past and look ahead to the future.
The summer is beginning to wind down and autumn is right around the corner. I often muse about the changing seasons this time of the year and reflect on my life, time-hopping from the past to the future, then back to today. Though it’s common to look back at the preceding year on New Year’s Eve or look ahead to the coming year the next day, I usually follow the school year calendar and my annual staycation. Some habits are hard to break.
Though the weather is summer-like with hot, humid days and buggy nights, children return to school, and families reset their routines. It is a wistful, introspective time of year for me, a time to reflect on my life, to look back at where I’ve been and to what’s ahead. I often make new commitments and sometimes let go of others. Fall is always a time of change, both externally and internally.
(Soon it will be) the autumnal equinox, the official beginning of fall, when day and night are nearly equal. One can already see the sun’s position in the sky changing and its effect on daylight. Soon too, the leaves will change from their verdant hues to vibrant shades of carmine, crimson, burnt orange, golden yellows and finally tawny browns before they fall to the ground. Like most mothers, I’m sure Mother Nature doesn’t have a favorite season, yet I do, and it’s fall.
Winter symbolizes the final chapter of our lives. If we’ve prepared well, we can enjoy the comfort and solace of our homes, friends, and family. Every day is a snow day, or if we choose a warmer climate, we can become a snow bird.
It is the morning after the longest night of the year, the Winter Solstice. Snow in big fluffy flakes is falling sideways, blowing easterly. Yesterday’s ice glazed trees and roads today are flocked in white. It is a snow day in Wisconsin. When I look back at the snow days in my lifetime, they are intertwined with the people and the branching points of my past.
A snow day can be a luxurious day to stay in sweatpants or pajamas, drink hot chocolate or a hot toddy (my grandmothers’ winter drink of choice), camp out on the couch and watch movies, or for the hearty and young-at-heart and limb, bundle up and head outside for winter activity from sledding, to snow-shoeing, to cross-country skiing, to snow-boarding, and in Wisconsin especially up North, jump on a snowmobile and speed from bar to bar, or assist travelers in trouble.
Additional Reading from Mixed Metaphors, Oh My!