Space-time—the past; the present; the future—we can't defeat our linear existence. And each year of life, as we pass through it, seems little by little to increase in speed, like a tiny snowball at first, barreling down a hill, getting faster and larger as it goes. And each year of life, our mortality looms larger out there, in the unseen somewhere.
The seasons are responsible for my own sense of life at a tilt-a-whirl pace, blending so quickly, one into another, that I barely have time to embrace each before it's gone. Every season harbors so much potential, and thanks to a happy childhood, every season evokes such a flood of traditions and memories, that I resent the seemingly truncated versions of seasons passed that mark the transit of my present and future adulthood.
Having spent the bookends of my life in Tennessee and now Virginia, the middle section transpired in northern Florida, where seasons have less meaning. Spring, summer and autumn were one amorphous super-season, and winter made a brief half-hearted appearance. Life without seasons had a peculiar bipolar effect on me: on the one hand I missed the diversity and richness of seasonal change; on the other hand, time seemed to slow down. And so when I moved to the mid-Atlantic region, I had my seasons back, but time rocketed forward.
This year was the worst so far. I blinked, and spring was gone. Summer made an attempt to hang around, but by the time the kids headed back to school, it was apparent that autumn was impatient. I was depressed. It couldn't be time again for bulky clothing, pumpkins, rakes, and ultimately snow shovels. One holiday after another, culminating in Christmas. Planning, food, travel, shopping, wrapping, presents, presents, presents.
I refused to believe that the trees were beginning to turn, and each leaf that fluttered to the ground was like a bomb setting off a mini-explosion in my soul. I was dour. I complained. I sighed.
Part of the painful struggle of life disappearing into a ravenous black hole of sorts is the realization that there will not be enough time to do everything I want to do. Books will remain unread; stories will remain unwritten; puzzles will remain unsolved; countries, monuments, pyramids, exotic islands will remain two-dimensional pictures seen only in magazines; much of the accumulated knowledge of humankind will never even see the light of day inside my brain. Many dreams will remain unfulfilled. It's enough to make me almost envy the "lesser" creatures, the cats, dogs, and other animals for whom life is simply a day of food, a little activity, and sleep, repeated over and over into the grave.
But inevitably, the trees began to change color. I ignored them. At first. Then the rains began to fall, to pelt the leaves onto the ground and to melt away my indignation. I had to surrender to the incredible breathtakingly beautiful panorama of red, orange, and yellow as far as the eye could see. Autumn had suckered me in again. And as the days became cooler, and day turned to night at the ridiculous time of five p.m., I decided I was ready for Christmas and the snow (for the most part) and the darkest season of all, winter.
To embrace the seasons is to embrace the stages of life. To live within the seasons is to live within the continuity of the Earth's rotation, of millennia before and millennia ahead. To understand the seasons is to understand that life as we know it is nothing without change.
The kid within me remembers the wonder of each new season, of days spent making the most of what each season had to offer, while the adult in me simply tries to postpone the inevitable. It is part of each individual's journey to make the most of change that he or she can. I'm not at peace yet with a journey that must end one day, but I think the secret to that peace lies somewhere in the transitions from one earthly season to the next, where the light changes subtly and the air becomes unstable, before the winds usher in the next metamorphosis of time and the space both around and within us.