There is a Season

Summer makes me drowsy, Autumn makes me sing,
Winter’s pretty lousy, but I hate Spring.
Dorothy Parker, Ethereal Mildness

Me, I love spring: I love beginnings, even slightly anxious ones.  The sense of anticipation, whether planting flowers, embarking on projects, or taking trips.  The unrealistic but enticing hope that this time it will be all good things, all the time.  The naïveté that obscures the coming work, challenges, and discomforts.  

It’s spring fever.  That is what the name of it is.  And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so! – Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer, Detective

I love autumn, too: I love endings, even slightly sad ones.  The satisfaction of tidying up after any job that’s done, even if it’s not entirely well done.  The sense of accomplishment in having scaled a wall, or the respite from banging my head against it.  The nostalgic glow that obscures the ups and downs of the road.

That soft autumnal time . . . The year’s last, loveliest smile.
John Howard Bryant, Indian Summer

I love beginnings and endings, but I’m not crazy about the summery bit in-between.  Trudge, trudge.  Anticipation is past; accomplishment or respite is yet to come.

I love endings and beginnings, but I’m not crazy about the wintry bit in-between.  Wait and wonder; wonder and wait.  With one trail completed, the sense of accomplishment in having come this far fades; without a new road defined, anticipation has no place to take root.

Prisma montage of start/end street signs

As I retire from what has been my principal work for a quarter century, I am basking in the familiar emotions that accompany an ending.  The satisfaction of putting things back in their rightful places.  The pleasure of saying nice things to former colleagues; the pleasure of hearing them say nice things in return.  The pride in having traversed some dark tunnels; the relief of not ordering any more tunnel.

Yet as I enjoy this autumn, I wonder just a hair uneasily how long the winter will be.  When will spring come, with its new beginning?  When will I see my new way clearly?  I know I won’t see it clear: There will be dark valleys (and dagnabbed swamps) on the road ahead, just as there are on the road behind.

Against the background of the dark, a score of disconnected incidents from his past life rose up before him, and it was as though, standing on the crest of a ridge, he turned to look back at a road he had travelled along.  A long road that dipped into dark valleys and climbed out again on plateaus and hill crests, but that seen from this vantage point gave the appearance of being a joyous and unbroken line.

He knew that the continuity of that line was an illusion, and that the valleys were there, for he had plodded through them.  But now they lay below the level of his vision and were unimportant, and it was only the mountain tops that he saw, joined together by distance and bathed in retrospective sunlight.

M.M. Kaye, Trade Wind

Like retrospective valleys, maybe prospective ones are also unimportant.  I know I will plod through them, but maybe I can choose to see only the mountain tops stretching ahead of me.  A slightly uncertain line, to be sure, but a joyous and unbroken one, nonetheless.

 

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8 Comments

  1. Tom Watson

    Isabel
    Thank you for those incredible reflections about the movement of life. Very thoughtful, and very inspiring.

    I have not read Kaye’s “Trade Wind” but the quote you offered is so philosophically enticing that I just looked it up. Seems it’s one I should put on my (now fairly long as it is) list of books I should read.
    Tom

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Tom – Thanks kindly. I’d put the novel in the historical fiction/romance category, if that helps with your priorities. I’m not sure there’s much other philosophy in it. 🙂 I loved it as a teenager and have also read it since – the characters are real people, with strengths and flaws, albeit a little over the top.

  2. A friend called one Spring and said, “I have restless listlessness….”
    Always thought that summed up Spring perfectly.

    As for optimism (and plodding, alas), I have a quote from Robert Frost:
    “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned
    about life: it goes on.”

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Barbara – I think it’s funny how we can take the seasons so personally, in some cases as an obligation, maybe in others as an inspiration. I’m not crazy about the aftermath of New Year’s, for example, because I feel the whole year pressing down on me. Crazy, huh? And Frost was right – the best news we can get is that it goes on.

      1. Except when you get really old. My father gave my mother a Wedding Anniversary card for their 70th and he wrote in it: “…and 70 more!!” and she just said, “Oh, Ken….” and not in a good way.

        When people asked how long they had been married, she would tell them and then add, “Seems longer….” Dry humour.

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