Thursday, August 23, 2012

At season's end

A foggy Flambeau River morning

The air smells different, especially on foggy mornings and as the dew sets in the evening. It’s a damp, crisp, sharp, natural scent - made of grass clippings and old twigs fallen from their tree limbs. The fragrance is accentuated by the slightly shorter days, the sun that has begun to diminish in strength, as it goes to bed earlier and earlier. The nighttime can officially be considered chilly, and the mornings are way more brisk than they were a month ago.

Don’t let me get you down, though, it is still summer after all, just quietly fading. There are still warm, sunny afternoons to be had, still nights warm enough to lay under the stars, still mornings where the sun makes its appearance bright and early - they are just no longer unlimited.

Past are the days of July, when it seems as though the summer is endless, like it’s always been that hot and when an occasional rainy day is a reprieve from the heat. Long ago was June, when the summer’s plans and warmth and length of days ramped up into high expectations and reprieve from duty and the dreary of winter. Even May, with its early blossoms and careful, hesitant promise of sunny days is far, far behind us.

Instead our minds now turn to harvesting the garden, putting time into firewood, and making plans for Labor Day - one last summer send-off. As the weather changes, so too does our thinking. Our attention is pulled into a mode of preparation for the next season, and as a byproduct we tend to reflect upon the path over which we’ve traveled this season.

For me, I look back on plenty of late nights and a smattering of early mornings. All the sunsets and sunrises (with the exception of a few true standouts) blur together into a single, transcendent, celestial collage, hanging in the sky just above a lake, or a meadow, or the treetops in my yard. All the stars in the galaxy, on all the nights I spent staring at them are cemented in my memory, casting curses down for every night I didn't let them hold sway over me, every night I ducked inside early and went to bed. I think of every tree I climbed this summer, how stupid (free) I felt climbing them, how happy I was sustaining bark scrapes and sap blotches for the sake of getting a better view. I think of the various clarities of rivers and lakes I swam in, and regret all those I passed on the opportunity to experience.

And then, as this slow changing of the seasons begins to take its toll on me, I start to see the faces of the people who have made each of these past 10 weeks truly unforgettable. I see all my loved ones, their smiles and laughter, their frowns and their tears, and it makes me fierce, reminding me to keep them close and instills in me the strength to protect them. I see all my friends with grins; I see their talents, their wisdom, their humor, and it encourages my respect, my admiration, and my commitment to them. And then I see myself, how I’ve grown, how I’ve changed, what I’ve accomplished, and what’s fallen by the wayside. I see a new perspective and an old set of values renewed by it - and I am grateful.

The imminent shift in seasons has created this change in energy from active and pursuitful to reflective and receptive. I’ve noticed this happen most often during the layover of what I consider the two major seasons - summer and winter. As the Earth revolves around the sun, so to do our turbulent lives in the wake of the shifting weather patterns.

Winter is a season in closed session, a time to hunker down, to study and learn and a time for indoor projects and plans and thinking work. The weather outdoors is atrocious, and it’s tough to stare into that grey sky everyday without the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) setting in. So we stay inside, and we tinker in front of wood fires and put our minds to progress, hiding our hearts in our heads.

When spring breaks, we begin to put study into practice, start fresh with projects and renewed vigor at the promise of fresh weather and more sunlight. Then summer hits, and schedules get hectic with travel plans and visits and adventures and being outdoors. We reap the rewards we put into the ground during the winter, renew our sense of self, gauged by the personal progress we made in the winter. We hold our hearts in our hands, lucid and shining, lazy and dreaming.

Now, with autumn just around the bend, we have the chance to reflect on all the adventures during the summer. We each get to start anew the next season. Hopefully refreshed and with new interests and goals brewing in the back of our heads. This is not a goodbye to summer, not for me. If you believe in tomorrow you never say goodbye, not to anyone.

Whatever is left of your summer, I hope you make it count. I hope you, too, experience first-hand the ebb and flow this transition between seasons generates. I hope that you grasp onto all the intangibles from the summer of 2012 so that they stay with you. I hope, for your sake, that wherever you go and whatever you find yourself doing, your life never gets in the way of you living it; that you never, ever, learn to forget and regret.

“Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own; and from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, it is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy that we can scarcely mark their progress.”
- Charles Dickens
See you out there,
A woodsman in training

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