If I were in charge of seasons, Fall would come first. I am not just saying this because I look impossibly sexy in Fall clothes (though that IS a reason). I am also saying it because it makes more metaphorical sense; for me, life begins with death.
I’m not talking about being Saved. I’m talking about the way nature works, both in the physical world and the human psyche. If I start with Spring, with babies and tender shoots and open windows present from the start, then I am taking it all for granted; it’s merely the scenery, a given. But if I start with the death of an aunt, whose high musical giggle returns in the baby, if I start with a withering plant whose seed is at the center of a fresh plant, or if I start with a closed window that someone or something must open, then there is no mere scenery because everything is always growing, connected, telling the story. That feels true to me.
Something is always dying back –sometimes dying altogether– so that a newer, more resilient something, fed and strengthened by whatever has been lost, can grow in its place. A bird, a tree, a daffodil whispers everything it has learned about survival to the egg, the seed, the bulb and then falls back, generously gives way to the new thing.
Everything that’s living –in the world and in us– is made up of everything that has died.
The same evolution happens in a healthy human spirit, right? Ideas, relationships, plans and philosophies die back to engender new ones, which die back to engender new ones, which die back to engender new ones. That’s us growing, even after we stop growing taller. Everything that’s living –in the world and in us– is made up of everything that has died. That’s much more hopeful, if you think about it, then the idea that life, the moment it appears, begins winding its way inexorably toward death. That’s depressing.
If I were in charge of the calendar, Spring would be the third season. The warm sunny days, the baby animals, the soft colors, the daffodils would mean almost nothing if they didn’t follow Winter’s blank, frozen months. The snow, the chill –that’s what gives Spring its context, its value. We open the window, we watch to see what grows back to reassure us, what grows fresh and new to delight us. We remember what was there before and are grateful to see its influence, its contribution to what has grown in its place. Spring is as much an ending as a beginning.
And Fall is as much a beginning as an ending. I’m seeing the trees begin to change color, the plants and flowers starting to dry out and die back. I’ll be watching to see what’s new next Spring, even in the trees, which we humans regard as constant. They are indeed more constant than a lot of things, but they still allow their leaves and dying branches to drop every year. They still allow themselves to bend, to fall, to be struck by lightning, to burn, even to die if that’s what it takes to grow something new.
Fall is my favorite season, my new beginning every year. It is the season of letting go, which I am never very good at, so I learn from watching Nature, who is very good at it (just think of all She’s lost). Every Fall, I practice dying back: I stop trying to revive withering plants outside, I let dying branches drop. I close windows. I allow parts of myself to bend, to fall down, to be struck by lightning, to burn, even to die. It’s fine, it’s good, it’s the beginning of something new that will grow there –a fresh idea or relationship or plan or philosophy. Every fall, I am the bird, the tree, the daffodil, whispering what I know to the egg, the seed, the bulb. I am also those. I am growing, connected, telling the story.