To Live Seasonally
"Lyric night of the lingering Indian summer, Shadowy fields that are scentless but full of singing, Never a bird, but the passionless chant of insects, Ceaseless, insistent.
The grasshopper's horn, and far off, high in the maples The wheel of a locust slowly grinding the silence, Under a moon waning and warn and broken, Tired with summer.
Let me remember you, voices of little insects, Weeds in the moonlight, fields that are tangled with asters, Let me remember you, soon the winter will be on us, Snow-hushed and heartless.
Over my soul murmur your mute benediction While I gaze, oh fields that rest after harvest, As those who part look long in the eyes they lean to, Lest they forget them." - "Indian Summer", Sara Teasdale -
Aromatic evenings with a scent of burnt hay, low, powerful, striking sun that blinds. Golden shadows are cast by rivers, ponds and swarms of insects. Light breeze that usually accompanies the sun, teases and playingfully cheats one's senses - the sun is stronger than it is made feel by the breeze. In my mother language, translated, we call this Michaelmas Summer. The Michaelmas, the feast of Saint Michael, Raphael and Gabriel, is celebrated on 29th of September, but the season of the extended light and warmth expands beyond it, sometimes as far as early November. This season, however, of "prolonged" summer, and unusually warm and dry days during September, October and November, has different names, in different languages. Indian summer is the most common name for it in English, but other languages have slightly different names. One of the most common names for it is, in translation "Old Woman's Summer" - German ("Altweibersommer"), Slavic languages ("Babí Léto", Babie Lato", "Bablje Ljeto"), Finnish ("Vananaistesuvi). Others name it after Saints, like Saint Martin's day in Netherlands, Saint Teresa of Ávila in Spain. Even the mild, temperate parts of Southern Hemisphere - in Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, have the name for it, they call it "Veranico", "Veranito", "Veranillo" and it occurs during April and May. This season has always been a favorite of mine, the sentiment of which was so beautifully described in the poem above. There is something romantic, melancholic about it - the passing of time, the departing of summer and knowledge that no matter how long the sunlight and warmth stay, the cold, dark winter days are around the corner. The usual companions of the summer - birds, plants, the buzz of life through an open window are slowly leaving, and despite the potent sun, there is the inner awareness of change, of the upcoming silence and frost of the winter. Those are the last days to enjoy the sunny outdoors, to feel nature alive, to feel the sun that is gentler than it was in July. Sun no longer burns. Its rays offer the healing embraces of Apollo.
Beyond everything else, what this time of year reminds us the most (and maybe, the reason why autumn is so often favorite season of painters, poets, wirters and philosophers) is the passage of seasons and passage of time. The melancholy that comes with awaraness of this, of time, is awareness of the stern and strict father Saturn who devours everything. Even his own children are not spared. The passage of time is also a reminder, of Lord Krishna's words in "Bhagavad Gita": "Time I am, the great destroyer of the worlds, and I have come here to destroy all people" (11.32). Time constantly destroys in order to create and our human bodies, including our identity constructed around existence of our own individual "I" is not spared. The seasons that pass, liberate us from taking ourselves seriously. They liberate us from the self-centered mode in which, all of us, on daily basis, exist. However, the importance of seasons is not just to stand as a reminder of the cosmos that constantly destroys and constantly creates on the very ashes and corpses it created yesterdy. The awareness of seasons brings about another knowledge - that seasons are cyclical. They return and they come back. Whether it is seen in a certain, big, cosmological view, or whether it is seen as our own, internal springs, summers, autumns and winters - what one learns is that every season, has its fruit. The seasons are cyclical and in their generalities always the same, and yet in their specifics, always different. No winter or summer is like the other winter and summer. Bad winter, is almost always a guarantee for bad summer and finally bad harvest. The cold and contemplative winter prepares the soil for everything that happens after it.
Harvest festivals, equinox and solistice festivals are familiar to humans across cultures and religious traditions. Eating seasonally - only that which nature offers at specific time of the year, has been, and still is, practice in many corners of the planet. In our time, when any kind of food is available at any time and when winters no longer seem like a hardship to get through and prepare for, we have forgotten to live together with nature, following its rhythm. We have become alienated from its cycles and alienated from our own, internal cycles. But it is not just romantic connection with the virgin nature that has been broken. Alienation from cycles, seasons and festivals is alienation from Time. In particular, alienation from the unique relationship between human and time. "Sometimes,' my father used to say, "I am moved to found a festival; but it is not so much a festival I found as a set of relation between Man and Time", says Antoine De Saint-Exupery in his "Winds, Sand and Stars", reflecting in it, the extraordinary, transcendental component of this relationship. Festivals and seasons allow humans, as Mircea Eliade suggests in his work, to leave for a moment, ordinary time and enter the realm of sacred, great time. Behind the fatalistic promise of the time that gnaws at everything it creates, time ceases to be a straight line that eventually has its end. Time is experienced as a cosmological rhythm, that is cyclical, seasonal and non-existent at the same instant. It is not just fatalistic promise of death but awareness of continuation of the both past and future through present, through us, individuals positioned in that present. In sacred time, composed of never-ending "nows", a human being experiences a glimpse of eternity. "One is devoured by Time, not because one lives in Time, but because one believes in its reality, and therefore forgets or despises eternity." ("Images and Symbols", Mircea Eliade).
To return to the little lyric prayer offered by Sara Teasdale and its message - remember to pay attention, to listen, notice and observe, to leave for a moment the self-absorption all of us so often occupy. Notice seasons as they come and go and their unique gifts - internalize them, establish relationship with Time and experience that which human being truly is - a part of a large symphony.
Links: Bhagavad Gita "Winds, Stars and Sands", Antoine de Saint-Exupery "Images and Symbols", Mircea Eliade "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... Spring Again" Become a Patron