Have you heard the analogy to a lifetime being as the four seasons?
Springtime would be as birth: freshness, learning everything new, crazy growth and colorful life. Childhood.
Summer is as the widest span of life: young adulthood, a time of growth and productiveness, fruitfulness, harvest, and enthusiastic change.
Fall, the time when the productivity of summer is winding down, preparations are being made for winter, pruning is needed before the winter cold, the full harvest brought in.
Winter, the final season of life, when the cozy blankets are drawn in close around you, when a fire in the hearth is a warm comfort, and the gentle quiet of a still, frosty morning settles in.
Of course, these are generic, with huge overlaps, but it is an interesting thought.
I am in the fall of life. My favorite season. Why? The rich, dark colors of gold and rust and amber and wine and forest and chocolate and the blues of a deep, still lake are, to me, much more peaceful than the pastels of spring or the vibrant hues of summer. The flavors of cinnamon and nutmeg and apples and pumpkin and squash are favorites that speak of fall.
Leaves rustle in the breezes and float slowly down to the ground like feathers, their deep yellows and reds and oranges like a child's finger painting on the ground below. There is a brisk freshness in the air that has been missing in the heat of summer. The sun, its position lowered in the sky, glows directly into our windows, greeting the rooms with its warm rays rather than the over-heated summer air. When we walk, leaves crunch beneath our feet, the cool air breathes softly around us. The clothes shift to flannel and corduroy and denim and comfy sweaters or sweatshirts. The shortened days remind us that time is limited, that the days will not go on forever, that as the sun goes down a little earlier each evening, another day has passed, another memory behind us.
How does this relate to my life? Fall is not a sad time for me. It is an exciting season of change and quiet growth. I love the changes, the differences even a day can make in the plants, the trees, the air, the sky. Like pulling a down comforter up around your chin on a cold morning, fall helps the plants tuck themselves in for the winter. The harvest this time of year is long-lasting. The pumpkins and winter squash and apples and root crops will be stored, ready for provision during the winter. Nuts are harvested and squirreled away. The sun sends its warmth and light directly into our rooms.
The majority of our children are grown and establishing their own families, homes and careers. I can enjoy the harvest, watching them build their own lives and make their own choices. The stored memories will provide smiles and happiness for years to come.
The extra time I have now is an invitation to get outside and go for a walk, soaking up the season's beauties, my sweatshirt zipped around me. A new season is a time to learn, to observe, to appreciate the changes and the quiet growth happening around me, even if it is hidden away below the ground or deep inside the plant's structure. The writing I am doing now, working quietly at my desk, develops and waits to bloom.
And the pruning. For me, this is always a painful task, pruning away flowers along with the dying or broken branches. I know all the reasons for the necessity of pruning: healthier for the plant, encouraging new growth, and strengthening the branches. Yet, it is tough to cut away, to trim down, to change a large plant to small stumps. Of course, there are many life applications here, just as tough as getting out the pruning shears. Trimming down the stuff of life, cutting off the abundance, leaving only what will build strength and growth and health. This, of the four seasons, is the best time for pruning, both in plant life and people-life. The best season, for me, for quiet changes, accepting the shorter days of life, and traveling lighter.