This piece is also in audio—read for you on Carolyn North Out Loud. Enjoy.
Yesterday, we harvested the last of the beets and the carrots here on the farm, and this morning dawned cold, a dusting of frost over the fields, the golden technicolor trees of autumn making a brilliant crazy quilt of rich oranges and reds, golds and greens on the wooded hillsides against the morning blue sky. Overnight, the world has changed from late summer to the beginning of the long season of early darkness and snowed-in nights. Hibernation.
I am getting ready to go deep.
I think a lot, these days, about seasons: of a year, of a life, of a world. Moving towards my own final season on Earth, I think a lot about transitions and how they are built into the world, and that even though we may think of ourselves as a permanent fixture here, the fact is that with each day of our lives we progress ever closer to our deaths. Starting from the day we were born.
In many ancient traditions—like the Hindu and the Mayan—it is understood that everything cycles over Time, from atoms to planets. Our Earth home takes thousands of years to make each of these cycles, emerging, evolving and eventually dissolving back into the “ocean” from whence it came. Between each long era of some 25,000 years there is a long period of rest—I think of it as “recuperation”—after which a new era is ‘born’ and begins anew to mature, develop and advance through the next 25,000 years of development and decline. Then again, the next long period of rest. Like this the world itself matures, cycle by cycle with all its evolving life forms until the next phase of dissolution comes, apparently an essential part of the process.
Here in the woods of Vermont I watch green leaves morph into golds and reds overnight, colors so bright I can practically hear them sing and then, overnight, they begin to let go and drift brilliantly to the ground. For awhile we live in a carpet of color that swishes and crackles beneath our feet until one day a big wind whips through and strips the branches bare.
In a twinkling, a new season is here; almost overnight.
This morning I walked Kathy and Tom’s seven-circuit labyrinth created out of quartz boulders found out in the woods, and I marveled again at the wisdom of this ancient design. The path led me back and forth from straight to the first turn, then straight again, turning the other way, round and round and back and forth until I had no idea where I was on the path. The center is continually just out of reach as you are led this way and that and just as you figure you’ve made a mistake somewhere along the way, it magically takes you straight into the center!
But it’s not over because then you have to follow the path out again, turning and switchbacking, round and round, the view changing with each step, getting lost and finding the path again until, just like that when you do not expect it, you are back where you started!
That’s us, I believe. All of us, whether we know it or not.
I wonder about seasons of our collective life, if perhaps all this madness we are experiencing in the world these days is a sign that radical change is upon us—has actually been coming closer for perhaps several hundred years—and that we are moving towards the hot center of a radical and necessary shift, which I would like to believe is what we each came into incarnation for now—to do the work of recognizing what we are here for.
Speak for myself, I believe it is what I am here for. As Mary Oliver has written, “What shall you do with your one and precious life?”
“This,” would be my particular response, “walking my internal labyrinth as I learn how to love both myself and everyone else.”
Step by step. And to ask of all of you who share this time and world with me these questions:
“What shall we all collectively do with our precious lives?”
“How do we make this necessary transition, both the personal one and the collective one?”
“How do we use this time to celebrate the era of the world we have been born into?”
“How can we have the best time possible, and learn how to sing and to dance and to laugh our heads off?”
Because whyever not?
As for me,this California girl is planning to put on new boots over two pairs of woolen socks, wear thick mittens and learn how to not slip on slick ice when the temperature here goes down into the single digits and the winter snows begin in earnest!
Again, whyever not?