How do how seasons change?
Once again we are entering a period of transition: summer to autumn in the southern hemisphere, winter to spring in the north.
What is your idea about how seasons change? I notice that a lot of people think of seasonal change as something that happens slowly and steadily, like a smooth movie fade, or the blending of water colour on a page.
Sounds like a nice scenario, doesn’t it? But I’ve been observing seasonal change for nearly three decades now, and I have yet to see a smooth transition.
Here’s a more likely scenario
First you are nudged by a few hints, a glimpse of something different. Here in the southern hemisphere, where it is deep summer, you may notice a cooler night or a change in the angle of the light. In the northern hemisphere perhaps one day the watery sun has surprising warmth, or a crocus appears, cutting through the cold ground.
It looks as if a new season is on the way.
But then the old season resists, asserting itself, as if refusing to die. The heat (or cold) may intensify.
Here at the end of February, summer is blasting a hot dry breath over the land, fiercely burning any unwatered plants. Summer is acting as if there is no such thing as autumn waiting in the wings, ready to take over. In the northern hemisphere, a vicious blizzard or cold icy snap may strike just as you are dropping your guard. At such times, spring seems like a pipe dream.
At the very end of summer, my tomato plants, their side leaves hanging crackly and dry, put out a last burst of fresh green and even new flowers at the very top. In autumn, trees flare with a rich display of colour just before surrendering to the stripping of winter.
It happens even in death
This phenomenon may occur in other areas of life. A dying relationship unexpectedly bestows a burst of its former glory. The job you are leaving suddenly becomes fun. Even a person dying a natural death may show a flash of radiance just before breathing no more.
Do you ever feel confused by such contradictions?
Do you feel resistant, wanting to hold on to the season that’s passing, because it’s what you know? After all, you have adjusted to it. You know what you’re going to wear from one week to the next, and what you’re going to eat. You’ve fallen into step. And now it’s going to change again, not smoothly but bumpily, confusing you in the process.
But it’s normal
At times of transition you are caught between the old and the new. You may be tempted to make the confusion wrong, but transitions are part of life.
Disorientation is the nature of transition.
When you are disoriented, of course you want something to hold on to. You may try and hold on to the very thing that is passing. This creates discomfort, even pain.
A Buddhist teaching
Buddhism offers a wise teaching about what you can hold on to, and it’s not what you might expect, or even want. It’s this:
The only certainty is that everything changes.
Ha! You might object. What help is that?
But think about it for a moment. What if, instead of fighting change, you surrendered to it? What if you embodied a deep acceptance that this is how life is?
Change is not an affront. Nature is always in the rhythm of change.
What the seasons teach
Would you really like a year with no seasons at all?
The passing seasons bring about continuous renewal. Trees go through times of rest through the chill of winter, a burst of new growth and energy in spring, consolidation and seed-making in summer, and release of seeds and leaves in autumn.
Your body goes through changes with every season and stage of life. Every cell of your body knows about this. You know about what must be surrendered and also about the new growth that will emerge.
It’s fine to have feelings too
Adopting this philosophy doesn’t mean you won’t have feelings about change. Many people feel melancholy as the crickets sing their autumn song and the brightness of summer recedes.
Yet there may also be a readiness to let go, for that final flare also expresses a ‘too-muchness’ that goes with each season. In the end, to borrow a saying from my mother, ‘you can have too much of a good thing.’
And so, here are three strategies you might like to adopt through the seasons of nature, or of your life:
1. During times of transition, be present and curious to what is.
2. Hold on to the thought that change is the only certainty. Know that you are designed to deal with this.
3. Open to the renewal that inevitably takes place when old states are surrendered. Each season, each change, will bring you gifts. Prepare to receive them.
When you become aware that everything
it is easier to relax and trust.
—Roger Jahnke, Qi Gong master
PS If you would like help with the current seasonal transition, my Summer Attunement home ritual will guide you to preserve and ‘bottle’ the goodness of summer so you can take it forward into the months to come.
And if you are in the northern hemisphere my Winter Atunement will help you move from stagnation to creative gestation and regeneration.