After living in Southern California for most of my adult life, I moved to New Jersey. Unusually deep snow, ice, and record-breaking low temperatures greeted my arrival. I became familiar with the term "polar vortex." Looking back over the past several months I am beginning to consider that the unusually cold, wet, frozen weather had little if anything to do with my arrival. Nevertheless, I became a student of the seasons just in case it really was all about me. I've recently determined that seasons are essential.
Okay. So any meteorologist could have told you that. Except, just for the record, the "most of my adult life" lived in Southern California consisted of quite a few years. If there are noticeable seasons in that part of the world, their arrivals and departures are beyond subtle. A dear friend and East Coast ex-patriot once observed that California had two seasons -- night and day.
Beyond the meteorological significance of seasons, I now believe they are essential for other reasons. No offense to all who love the sameness of Southern California, but that sameness, in my opinion, can become dangerous. Because of it we are lulled into a belief that change doesn't happen. We maintain our homes and our offices at comfortable temperatures. We walk from them to our automobiles, which we also maintain at comfortable temperatures. We only remark on the weather if we happen to be outside. Outside is only the place to go to do something impossible to do inside or to rush through on our way to some other inside. During those outside experiences our most frequent remark is a complaint about the heat because rarely do we need even a sweater in that land of eternal youth and good looks. Eventually, it seems to me, we forget that our time to complain about or experience weather is fragile and finite. We become oblivious to the passing of time and thus oblivious to the passing of our own time.
Here on the East Coast autumn dazzles the senses with leaves in constant, colorful change. Soon the deciduous trees will be leafless and bare. Winter will come again with its ice and snow and cold. In my "new to the seasons" worldview, it seems to me that each season has its own rhythm and urgency and purpose. Autumn (aka "fall") seems to be a season of preparation. There is an inevitable urgency as life prepares for winter: roads repaired. Construction hurried toward completion. Gardens mulched. Coats brought from storage to closets or coat racks. Winter will come in its own time but just knowing it's on its way compels us to prepare for the weeks of hunkering down. Even leaving home for work or life sustaining errands requires a hunkering down in those harsh weeks. Winter bends us over and forces us to consider each footstep lest we slip on ice or sink knee deep into a drift. Just when we worry that winter will never end we witness the first snow crocus bravely pushing its goblet-shaped head through the snow and we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that miracles even in this day and age do happen. And summer forces us outside. Hiking paths and parks and beaches fill with people rejoicing in sunshine and heat thrilled over having survived another winter until once again the leaves begin to change their colors and we know the cycle will repeat. Thus we mark and cherish and glory in the days of our lives fully aware of their seasons.
Of course, I'm new to seasons. They still seem miraculous to me as they offer compelling life lessons. I'm hoping they remain reminders of my many life miracles instead of becoming just another thing about which I complain or worse yet fail to notice.
Living with intentional awareness requires attention. I've got to stay alert for falling leaves, icy paths, brave blossoms, rising temperatures and precious moments.