On the Seasons

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing.” ~ Ecclesiastes 3: 1-22

As summer’s heat begins to melt away into the glory of fall, l have been thinking about the nature of the changing seasons. I have always loved how each season has its own special time, and how each one brings certain beauties that the others do not have.

Of course every year is different – no two winters or summers are ever the same – and yet, there is also an element of beautiful repetition in the cycle of seasons.
To me, each season doesn’t just have its own special mood to it, but also its own distinct purpose. I am sure this is different for different people, but regardless, I think it is good to have distinct ways to mark the changing of seasons. And so, here are the seasons from my perspective:

Spring

“And then the spring came; the sun shone, the green leaves appeared, the swallows built their nests, the windows were opened, and the little children again sat in their pretty garden, high up on the leads at the top of the house.” ~ Han Christian Andersen, The Snow Queen.

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With spring, comes new life – flowers, growth, and reawakening. When I think of spring, I always think of gardening and planting seeds, even though I haven’t tended a garden for several years (something I want to amend this coming year). But it’s not just the physical act of planting seeds – spring has always been a spiritual time of new life for me as well. Spring is the start of the year, a time of new beginnings, and also a time of reflection. I see my springs as very important – they set the stage for the rest of the year that follows. I love using my springs to reflect on happenings of the last year, both the good and the bad. Through reflection, I can see what I need to change with the new year – and then I can refocus and realign my priorities, with God at the forefront.

Summer

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“Such was the virtue of the land of Rivendell that soon all fear and anxiety was lifted from their minds. The future, good or ill, was not forgotten, but ceased to have any power over the present. Health and hope grew strong in them, and they were content with each good day as it came, taking pleasure in every meal, and in every word and song.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Summer is a time of warmth and energy, but also a time of rest. To me, summers are not only exciting times, but also healing times – adventures, but also Rivendells. While springs are my time of refocusing through new beginnings and reflection, summers are my time of preparation through healing and adventure. I do all that I can in my summers to equip myself spiritually for the rest of the coming year, through both Rivendells and perilous journeys. Of course Rivendells are great times of preparation and equipping – but surprisingly, so are perilous adventures. As I wrote in another post a few months ago, adventures help me see my life from a new perspective (https://adventuringinfairyland.wordpress.com/2015/07/17/on-adventure/), and when I return, I am never the same. Adventures make me braver, wiser, and more prepared to live the adventure that is every day life. And so, my summers are times of preparation in both the rest and in the adventure.

Fall


“The trees go all red and blazing orange and gold, and wood fires burn at night so that everything smells of crisp branches. The world rolls about delightedly in a heap of cider and candy and apples and pumpkins, and cold stars rush by through wispy, ragged clouds, past a moon like a bony knee. You have, no doubt, experienced a Halloween or two.” ~ Catherynne Valente, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

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And next, comes glorious, magnificent fall. Fall is known as a time of change (changing leaves, cooler air, shorter days), but to me, fall is primarily a time of action. A lot of this stems from the fact that fall is my favorite season – and historically, the season in which I have been the most effective. Something about the nature of fall invigorates and inspires me – and especially after spring’s reflection and summer’s preparation, when fall comes around, I am always ready to act. Fall is a time to make my dreams become a reality. It’s a time for action, and a time for courage. While summer was my time of training, fall is my time to go full on into battle, carrying high the banner of my King.

Winter

“In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.” ~ William Blake

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Finally, comes winter. Not only is winter the coldest and darkest time of the year, it is also the year’s end – and for some people, those things signify sadness. However, I see the cold as invigorating – and darkness only makes the light appear more wonderful and miraculous. So for me, winter is a beautiful time – a time of pure wonder and sincere joy. Winter is not a time for mourning, but a time of celebration. It is a time of celebrating all that God has done over the past year, through the new beginnings, the preparation, and the action.

Finally, towards the middle of winter, comes the end of the year. Endings used to make me sad, but as my life has progressed, I have learned to love endings – after all, every time something ends, something new begins. The feeling I have when the year ends is the same feeling I have when I finish a great book, am momentarily sad, but then find out that there is an even better sequel. Every new year is a new book to our story – and every time one ends, it means we get to start a brand new one.

Each season is wonderful in its own way, and to me each season means something different and special. But also, part of the reason why I love the seasons so much is that they do keep happening, over and over again. I love the repetition of the season cycle as much as I love the change from season to season. Both change and repetition are equally beautiful and important – and perhaps the magic of the seasons, is that they contain both.
“It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.” ~ G.K. Chesterton
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Addison’s Walk

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One of the coolest moments during my time studying abroad in England in 2013, was when I visited Oxford for the very first time. The entire trip was wonderful – I got to explore the city and campus, see famous Lewis and Tolkien sites, eat at the The Eagle & Child pub where The Inklings met, and explore the many beautiful bookstores across the city.

However, the most memorable experience from my first trip to Oxford occurred when I thought my day was about to end. I was on the way back to catch my train at the station, which was quite a long walk from where I was (I had explored nearly the entire city on foot that day). I really wanted to make that train, because otherwise it would be several hours until I could catch the final train of the day.

On my way back to the station, I spotted a really nice-looking nature walk. At this point in the day, I had already walked on several equally nice nature walks, and my legs were already aching from all of the walking I had done. But, for some reason, I felt an inexplicable calling to go take a walk on that trail.

Of course, I knew that if I did so, I would definitely miss my train – meaning I wouldn’t get back to my dorm room in Worcester until about midnight. So, of course, it made no sense to go for a walk on that trail, especially since I really didn’t feel up to it physically and was rather ready to go home.

“The best adventures are often unexpected.”

The line came out of nowhere in my mind. Well, I suppose I had been completing my annual reading of Tolkien’s The Hobbit that week, so maybe that explained it. But still, it was a sudden and clear thought, and it is what ultimately made me make the choice to turn towards the nature walk and miss my train.

And I am so glad I did.

When I arrived at the entrance to the trail, I stopped, thunderstruck. The small plaque above the gate advertised the trail as “Addison’s Walk”.

Wow. I thought. That’s awesome! Maybe I was supposed to come here just to see that.

But then, I saw to the right of the gate, an engraving… which was of a poem written by none other than my favorite writer, C.S. Lewis:

What The Bird Said Early in the Year – by C.S. Lewis

“I heard in Addison’s Walk a bird sing clear:

This year the summer will come true. This year. This year.
 
Winds will not strip the blossom from the apple trees
This year, nor want of rain destroy the peas.
 
This year time’s nature will no more defeat you,
Nor all the promised moments in their passing cheat you.
 
This time they will not lead you round and back
To Autumn, one year older, by the well-worn track.
 
This year, this year, as all these flowers foretell,
We shall escape the circle and undo the spell.
 
Often deceived, yet open once again your heart,
Quick, quick, quick, quick! – the gates are drawn apart.” 

I don’t remember how exactly the poem spoke to me that day, but I remember that it brought tears to me eyes. I had no idea of the existence of “Addison’s Walk” or of that poem – but of course, God had known it was there, and He had wanted me to find it. He knew I had been reading The Hobbit, and He knew the exact phrase to bring to my mind that would lead me there. He knew that Lewis’ poem was at the gate of the trail, and He knew I needed to read it.

I spent the next couple hours as I waited for the last train walking along “Addison’s Walk”, laughing and crying, just me and God. I came back to Oxford several times during the remainder of my time in England, and every time I made sure to come back to that trail. I still think it’s my single favorite spot in all of England, just because of the moment I had there with God.

He spoke to me that day, in so many ways, though I almost didn’t hear Him. I very nearly missed this beautiful moment completely, just by not allowing the unexpected to happen. If the best adventures are often unexpected, I think it’s equally true that God’s voice is often unexpected, and thus often missed. I wonder how many other times I have missed something He was trying to tell me just because I wasn’t expecting Him to say anything, or because I wasn’t willing to stray from my plans and go on an uncharted path.

And I wonder how different our lives would be if we just went through each and every day expecting to hear Him, and willing to change our plans to follow Him.

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