“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” – (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Contentment comes to me most easily in the days of Spring and Summer. Filled with abundance, these seasons bring the Earth to life after a long winter. Plants grow, flower and fruit with abandon. The streams and lakes warm to bathwater, golden sunlight paints every surface, and the air is sweet with the sound of buzzing and heavy with a heat that warms and renews not just my body, but my soul.
As the days warm, quiet sunshine and contemplation speak to me, whispering dreams spun on filaments of possibility and imagination. I can spend long, lazy days in the garden, or with a book, sipping a cold drink and feeling as though time is standing still. For me, Summer holds no imperfection. I could live this way forever.
Our lives are, regrettably, not designed that way. The hallelujahs that speak to me so loudly in the sun begin to fade to echoes as summer’s halcyon days begin to shorten. Shadows fall earlier, and those long, peaceful days are snatched away, replaced by leaden skies and a schedule that is unforgiving of time spent in daydreams and rumination. Autumn always ignites an indistinct panic in me; the season has the feeling of a final act, a curtain falling on time that can never be recovered. I cling to the last days of summer tightly.
This year, the end of summer and beginning of fall were marked by wildfires that raged, unchecked, through the state. The smoke carried for miles and hung in shrouds above the landscape- twisting between the trees, cloaking the familiar, and carrying the feeling of apocalypse.
In addition to the muttering anxiety that sat at the top of my mind, a different one lurked just below, walking together with resentment; the fumes that poisoned the air and drove us inside were also stealing my last treasured days of summer tranquility.
Weeks went by as the fires continued their march and we all prayed for rain. The very same rain that I dread every year, the unwelcome harbinger of fall and winter. When, at last, the heavens opened, we ran outside as the torrents descended, laughing and twirling with joy as the deluge soaked us.
In the weeks that followed, I watched the summer weather transition into Autumn’s rain, and somehow, the process was less painful than it had been in the past. I suppose you could say I’ve had a change of heart about the endless rains we see here in the winter and doing that has given me an unexpected gift- the ability to appreciate what each season has to offer.
One morning in late fall, I made a trip to town after a good long night of rain. I didn’t want to leave the house; the day was dreary, and there was standing water everywhere, which meant sloshing through every step I took.
The bank was one of the stops on my list, and it had an especially broad and deep puddle in the corner of the parking lot. A real ankle-soaker if I’d ever seen one.
But that puddle turned out to be the happiest part of my day. In it, perhaps a dozen small birds of different varieties, playing and splashing like mad, jubilantly sure that all was right with the world. They chased and spiraled above the water, diving down to submerge and reappear, soaked and fluttering, ready to fly again.
Joy, it seems, can be found in the most unexpected places.