“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven,” goes Ecclesiastes 3:1. “To everything, turn, turn, turn,” piped up The Byrds a few years later, on a more secular note.
Both are right, and none more poignantly so than at this time of year, when nature sheds its summer clothes and hunkers down for its most ungenerous stretch.
The changing of the seasons, as dependable as, well, the changing of the seasons, is a constant gift to the spiritual lives of all the creatures that experience it. It’s a quarterly opportunity for renewal, an automatic do-over, four times a year.
Autumn is, arguably, the most powerful of these transformative interludes. It is at this time, after all, that the world gives itself a spiritual bath, scrubbing away the debris that’s accumulated over the narcissistic rebirth that is spring and the indulgent luxury that is summer. And it’s a time to prep for the stark period of contemplation that is winter.
After all, what better opportunity for reflection on inner change is there than a period of such spectacular outer change? Watch the leaves adjust their colour and drift to the ground, and understand something valuable about discarding some of your own withered, no-longer-relevant characteristics.
It’s a pattern that endures throughout the calendar year, this intimate relationship between the evolution of the seasons and our own evolving sense of self. In the spring, we feel reborn. Just as tender green shoots poke through the long-frozen earth with hopeful tenacity, opening up their fists of resistance to the optimistic sunshine, so do we. After too many weeks of frigid immobilization, we draw breath once again.
And, over the course of the increasingly charitable months that follow, we dedicate our spirits to the practical business of life. Spring and summer are for getting things done. Under the sun’s warm rays, we scurry about in a state of furious productivity, cleaning, planting, repairing. It is during this period that we are more about doing than being.
And then fall drops, and we turn our gaze inward again. Melancholy inevitably creeps in, as we acknowledge the weakening of the sun’s yellow rays, and hustle to secure their last drops of spirit-kissing goodness before they pale into mere reminders of what they can be. In the autumn, we cast off our burdens, and look to the clean slate that the exercise provides.
Winter brings its own opportunities and agonies, first blanketing the world in a layer of white that excites a soul for its potential, and then wearing us down with its lowly lit persistence till we’re aching to bust out and into a new scene.
Up and down. In and out. Through and through. Without this ritualistic changing of the seasons, humans would never experience the coinciding transcendence within themselves. Those otherwise enviable folks who live in environments of near constant sunshine may never have to fill a leaf bag or scrape a windshield, but neither will they enjoy the privilege that this extraordinary glimpse of their spiritual selves allows.