Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Seasons of Renewal

I once dated a man who was very nice, very smart and very kind. But I knew it would never work out between us as soon as he told me his favorite season was spring. Actually, that's not true. That wasn't a deal breaker. But when I said my favorite season was autumn and he declared that he hated autumn--the season of mildew and everything dying--I crossed him off my list.

Perhaps he was too literal, a soul who reveled in the promise of new life each year, of blooming beauty and a fresh start. Who of us doesn't enjoy spring? Even as an allergy sufferer, at the end of a long, cold, dark winter, I would rather see pollen pushers poking their heads up through the soil than more swirling snow. As I thought about it further--the coming summer, sunny days and warm weather, beach visits and bike rides--I realized that spring really did signal the beginning of my favorite type of events.

This is a reflection, I imagine, of my lack of long-term vision. Yes, autumn is the prelude to winter, with its shorter days, colder nights, driveway shoveling and high heating bills. But I choose instead to make the most of my short-sightedness in this case. Cooler weather means a new school year and all the promise that it brings. It's the intro to a season of soups and stews, pies and cookies, all the baking that it's too hot to do in the summer. Fuzzy sweaters and soft corduroy pants come out of storage, and comforters are thrown across the beds. Cuddling under blankets with popcorn and hot chocolate with mini marshmallows is a favorite pastime with the kids, especially with all the school holidays that come in autumn. The fireplace can get a good cleaning, and the woodpile gets re-stacked with pine cones and cinnamon sticks. Let the hunkering down begin.

I suppose autumn is, for me, a sort of nesting period. In spring and summer, we open windows and increase our outings, enroll in camps and tasks that keep us out, away from each other and always on the move. So in autumn, when the cool air and school responsibilities bring us back together, back to home, it's a bit like preparing for the birth of a new baby. The house is made ready, the pantry is stocked and the windows pulled closed.

To me, autumn is the preparation for family togetherness. Soon Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons will call the rest of our extended family together. When they do, we will renew ourselves in each others' company, with all of the comforts and warmth of good food and the richness of each season's meaning. And by the middle of winter, we will be refreshed, ready to face the coldest months again.

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