Women don’t have chapters in their lives. They have seasons.
I listened to her as she pushed the stroller, worn plastic wheels swiveling over cracks in the concrete. Freshly planted pansies lined both sides of the sidewalk; I don’t know why I remember them, but I do. I must have realized in that moment that she was saying something important, a truth I needed to tuck away.
One of those finely polished gems that a sister slips into the hand of a sister, years before she needs to know it.
I can’t recall the context of the conversation. Her first baby was still young, the curly-haired toddler in the stroller. So we were probably talking about the transition to motherhood, the shift in identity, the struggles to sort out the balance between work and home. All the same things we still circle around in our conversations today.
But I never forgot those words or the way her voice rose with possibility and hope when she spoke.
We have seasons.
. . .
It’s an obvious symbol for human life; we know this. We watch seasons rise and fall outside our windows all year round. No magical metaphor to say that stages in our lives follow the same rhythm.
Some burst into being, some creep in slowly. Some delight us with fleeting beauty, and other overwhelm us with their endless stretch. (Winter ’14, I’m still glaring at you.)
You take enough turns around the sun, and you realize your life will unfold like this, too.
There will be moments of perfection you wish you could pause and savor forever. There will be months of suffering that bow your head to the ground with pleas to make it go away.
Just when we lose hope that winter will ever release its grey grip, we notice the first reddish buds on the backyard tree. We look up to notice the light slanting at a new angle, and we remember that change is always upon us.
But I often want life to be divided into tidy chapters instead. Starting fresh, ending clean. I do not want the stages of my life to be beyond my control, when they begin or how they end. I want to be the author of my days (now the daring boldness shows true face), and I want them numbered neatly according to my plan.
Seasons? They are slippery things. They blur and bleed into each other. They skip and tumble past each other. They do not obey us, our whims or our fancies. They never unfold as neatly in life as they flip on calendar pages.
. . .
Only when I became a mother did I start to notice seasons. This sounds like a naive and foolish admission, but it is true.
Why do teenagers stand at the bus stop shivering without coats or college students trot across the February quad in shorts? Because the young experience time in different ways than adults. They do not yet need to live into seasons.
But that first year home with my first child? I felt every shift in season within my skin.
Days were endless again as they were in childhood (except I did not sleep, so they felt even longer). Weeks were the definition of his life, the markers of each next milestone. Months were wholly different from each other: September felt nothing like October, November was light years away from December.
I watched each day rise and set as I nursed and rocked by the window in the nursery. I waited for each season to come and go, and I felt my whole existence rise and fall on their waves.
Three babies later, I still stand sentinel at the window as seasons pass.
I find myself at home in the turning of nature’s rhythms in ways I never imagined in younger days. There is so much mystery I cannot yet understand about how our lives unfold within the natural world we forget is home.
So when I am tempted to chasten my life for its unkempt edges, its untied endings, its wandering plotlines, I make myself stop and hear my sister’s words.
We have seasons.
Another woman had told her this, I remember now. Or perhaps she read it somewhere. Memory blurs but what matters is this: someone else had handed her the same truth she handed me, and I could feel that long line of matriarchal wisdom stretching back in time, solid and sure.
I knew it was true, and I also knew – as one does when one encounters truth – that it would take me a lifetime to learn what it meant.
. . .
Now it is autumn again. Now the children are in school again. Except everything is different, as it is each new year. Every piece of the puzzle is shaken back out of the box and spread on the table to sort through again and reconstruct a picture of the whole.
This is a new season. It is the only one I have to live.
And isn’t that precisely the paradox? That the seasons which define our lives in time are not simply context and circumstance, two quick notes of Setting: at the top of the script.
Seasons are who we are today. We do not merely possess them or inhabit them. We become them.
So I am this season. I am this autumn of three children, ages 6, 4, and 1. I am this fall’s school schedule and writing rhythm. I am this September’s balance of work and home. I am this season’s tasks and questions, dones and undones.
October will announce itself in a week; the light will slip lower, sooner. The children will start dreaming of costumes and candy. The long, late summer that lingered an extra month will be tucked back in pages of the past.
We will each become another season, slowly, imperceptibly.
. . .
The baby took his first steps tonight. Right there in the kitchen, corn bubbling over on the stove, me chirping like a fool to coax him to walk, finally, walk, yes, you’ve got it, look, everyone, look!
And we all looked as he grinned, staggering and stumbling, his parents watching with delight, his brothers dancing around like eager elves.
Right there before dinner, one season ended. Another began.
We have seasons. This is exactly what we need.