There are two times of the year when nature seems to pause in her cycle, preparing for another turn of the wheel. The first is that period between the receding grip of winter and the initial vestiges of spring. The air is not quite as frosty, but it’s still cold. The trees and fields are still bare. Birds have not begun to migrate in any significant numbers. Everyone and everything, it seems to me, maintains a silent vigil for the first flower bud, the first birdsong, the first fluffy cloud, the first gentle breeze carrying hints of damp soil and growth.
The other pause is currently taking place where I live on the East Coast of North America. Unfortunately, it is a moment less celebrated by poets and artists than the winter/spring transition. Our trees are still cloaked in shades of green, but their hues seem to have faded in the long summer heat. Scattered on my lawn are limp brown leaves that surrendered well before their chance for autumnal glory. Parents and children seem weary of the heat and chaos of summer and are ready, for the most part, for the regularity of the school year. As I look out from my deck, it’s as if the earth has stopped and is holding her breath. The cicadas have ended their din and are listening instead. Birds have forgone their earlier melodies. The sun looms over the muggy sky, watching with burning intensity. Even the stifling summer breeze has ceased any movement. The air is heavy with anticipation. Everything seems tired and worn to me, and everything is waiting, waiting, waiting without breath.
But then the wheel slips forward again. Usually it begins with rain. Nothing out of the ordinary, it appears at first to be the arrival of yet another summer evening storm – the result of thick soupy air going to battle with the sun’s afternoon rays. But then the downpour becomes something different. Something we haven’t experienced in a long, long time. It becomes our baptism into a new season. As the storm passes through, it gives way to winds from the north and the cooled raindrops cleanse the tired trees. In the darkness of the night, they refresh the dried lawns and rinse the dirt-grimed cars and walkways.
The following morning, people awake to find summer’s lingering spell shattered. The sky is new, a clean, brilliant blue. Vees of geese pass noisily overhead. The air has been liberated from the damp forest floors and rushes through the trees as their leaves clap in excitement. Everyone reaches for their long-neglected jackets and rushes outdoors to enjoy the show. The cool air erases sorrow for another summer gone, and awakens in us the forgotten anticipation of the joys of harvests and holidays. Everything seems more lively and animated.
We can learn a lesson from nature’s transitions. When we are tired and ready for change in our lives, perhaps in need of a new direction or a new outlook, instead of jumping into the next phase of our lives without thought and consideration we should take a moment to pause. We can’t understand where we need to go unless we’ve first examined where we’ve been. But then, once we’ve determined a path forward we also shouldn’t delay until our plans are laid out in perfection. If we do, we will never start down the road because nothing in this universe is perfect, nor will it ever be made so by waiting. Like nature, we should have a period of reflection and then give ourselves a baptism of sorts, a rite of passage, that will propel us into the next phase. We should be able to look back and see the transition – that was my life before, and this is my life since.
Just as summer ends and autumn begins, so may the transitions in our lives be blessed.
Chant for Transition
Spirit of the West
cleanse me with your rain.
Rinse away the old,
Spirit of the North
refresh me with your coolness.
Instill in me the new,
With this ending
With this beginning
With this Earth
So mote it be.