Updated: Apr 21
Here in the Midwest where we supposedly own (or rent) front-row seats to the spectacle that is the "four seasons," two of the four - spring and fall - seem to have been reduced to a smattering of 10 days. Two weeks at the most. In conjunction with the abridged versions of spring and fall, summer and winter have become extreme and drawn-out. Unless you are Canadian, this is shocking, exhausting, and makes you wax nostalgic for the "good old days" when we walked five miles to school in six feet of snow. No, wait - that was our grandparents' story. What we did have was a definitive transition of the seasons along with a semblance of weather-predictability in accordance with those seasons. It would rarely snow beyond March, tornadoes would not fly in the winter, and spring and fall were enjoyed as the temperate seasons for the entirety of April and May, the whole of September and October. Mother Nature seems to be incredibly upset.
Circling back to the "walking five miles in the snow to school" cliche, let the record for my generation show that we walked somewhere between a quarter and half-mile to school in the rain, sleet, snow and heat and were not chauffeured there are back like the kids are these days. (Insert me into a rocking chair on a front porch, thank you.)
Each Mother's Day, I would take my mother out to the woods for a morel mushroom-hunt. Now, the mushrooms are popping out in mid-to-late April, dried up and gone by mid-May, and by the time Mother's Day rolls around, we're cranking up the A/C and slathering on the SPF 50+. School used to let out in June, and summer lasted until Labor Day for us kids. The "March winds" actually happened in March and not April; the "April showers" fell in April and not May, and the "May flowers" were blooming in May and not March and April. I write this during the third week of April, where - here in the middle - it's incredibly windy, the flowers have bloomed, it's 80 degrees, and we are still waiting for the rain. Oh, and this weekend it's supposed to be below freezing. Meanwhile, my winter clothes are in storage. It might be smarter now to slide them to the other side of the closet rather than pack away into the basement or attic.
Some of us purposefully live here in the "middle" to experience and enjoy the four seasons, unlike the folks in the Southern and Western states who have given up dealing with snow and cold if they ever dealt with it to begin with. Yet another longtime friend of mine just recently packed up and moved to Arizona, citing, "I can't take another winter here" as her plea for escape. I think of this and of the other friends I've lost to New Mexico, California, Washington State and Mexico in the last year, and how unlikely it is they will visit me if I finally decide to move to Canada.
Even though Mother Nature now seems to be withholding her gift of weather-transition, that doesn't mean that we can't pause for a moment and acknowledge the shifts, however brief they may be. For example, we can mark that day in the early spring when, for the first time since last September and having nothing to do with menopause, you broke a sweat in the middle of the night. Some of us already perform the spring ritual of "Spring Cleaning," which can be more of an intuitive compulsion of renewal and regeneration than something we are expected to do. We also practice the ritual of putting our winter clothes away and taking out our summer things. Religious holidays like Easter and Passover as well as the Hallmark holidays of Mother's Day and Father's Day herald in the changing of the seasons as well. The plants we brought into the house or garage in order to protect them from the incoming October (September?) frost, can now be put out on the deck or in the yard. The seeds can't be planted quite yet, but we've got a few sprouting on the window ledge and are fervently making our seed bed plans.
These rituals and heralding of the holidays can contribute to our mental health while keeping us connected to our communities and families. We need and crave celebration - the collective acknowledgement of human milestones - to mark our personal as well as collective growth. Rituals and celebrations also mark the passage of time. With the advent of technology in the last century, we have let go of many rituals and celebrations in exchange for the transition from address and phone books to more easily-handled social media posting and tagging. A friend's upcoming birthday requires a quick look at your Facebook page, and a phone number is long forgotten and now can only be found in your phone. Our long-term memory suffers for this particular transition, and we are lucky to be able to retrieve a security code from our phone and hold it in our memory long enough to type it into the required webpage.
Another way to celebrate transition between the seasons is to look to Mother Nature for tokens of seasonal representation. On nature walks - whether urban, rural or woodland, we can collect a branch, a feather, a stone, bloom, seed or stick. We can place that object on a shelf or altar in our home-space where it is visible as a daily reminder that we are celebrating the season or marking an important moment or memory.
Other examples of transitions that we all experience during the course of our lives represent the change or creation of relationships with others according to the birth, life and death cycles. We form partnerships or enter into marriage; give birth to a child or care for an elderly parent. In this light, transition can mean coming out of oneself and into community, or into the service of another in some meaningful way. In the way the summer Solstice marks rebirth, and the winter Solstice marks death, we can follow suit. Our Mothers - in all the forms they manifest - are wise in their examples for us to follow. If we choose not to listen to our Mother and instead disregard transition according to these "seasons of life," we become stagnant and rigid. Our attitudes and behaviors remain the same to our detriment.
As we age our way through life, we each respond to that aging in wildly different ways, even though we know that the better way to respond is to act with awareness. We don't have to be overly cautious, but denial doesn't serve us either. If we fail to listen to the changes that our body goes through as we age, we become prone to accidents and the injuries that frequently result. Think about how many people you know who have tripped and fallen as a result of a household chore or maintenance task. From walking one too many dogs at a time to a cat getting underfoot to shoveling snow and climbing ladders, we are susceptible if we don't think it through first. That preemptive strike requires you to slow down, take a moment and a breath, and weigh your options. Knowing when to hire out a job or task is an important life skill to cultivate.
Transitions come whether we like it or not - and most of the time we do not - but the next time one presents itself to you, take it as a gift from your Mother. She knows what she is doing, she "knows best," and she loves you most of all.