In From Blossoms, Li Young Lee talks about stopping at a roadside stand for peaches and how simple and pleasant the whole experience was. It’s like a nice summer day where all you do is have fun and enjoy yourself and never get too deep or serious. He describes these kind of experiences as, the days we live as if death were nowhere in the background.
There are times and seasons of life filled with gravity — the time to think about our lives in the meta sense, and carefree days and seasons when we simply enjoy the visceral experience of being alive. It is our job to do both of these things, to ricochet between gravity and grace and live the truth of both of them. When the seasons change we are supposed to draw our attention to this, the dialectical reality of what our mortality means.
One of my favorite poets, David Budbill, wrote in one of his poems that, “The cycle of the seasons is to teach us to prepare for our own deaths. We get to practice every year, especially in the fall. I’ve had fifty-eight practice sessions now.”
When the seasons change, so should we.
It is our reminder that we are going to die — fall gives way to winter for everyone, every year. This is good, it gives us a sense of urgency, a finish line. It forces us to ask, Am I living as if it will be spring forever? Will I be happy with the work I have done to prepare for winter, when it comes?
I spent this afternoon planning an end of summer camping trip with some friends. I think it’s important every quarter to go on a trip and do something challenging. It doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate, just off whatever your beaten path is. Take time to think about where your life is going. Consider how far away it’s intended course is from its actual course and figure out how to make the necessary adjustments.
A camping trip is a good way to do this. It’s challenging, at least because you’re going without the internet for a few days but also because you have to plan out your meals and hike around and fill your time very deliberately. It’s completely the opposite of how most of us live our everyday lives. Plus, if you go with good friends it’s also filled with a lot of campfire talk about what you want in life and what is working and what isn’t working in order to get it. You can learn from other people’s trial and error.
Instead of (or in addition) to a trip, deep cleaning your home is another way to embrace and celebrate the lesson of the changing seasons. Get rid of things that do not help your life, and make room for new things that will. Sage yourself and your home and get rid of any lingering negative energy. Burn cedar, a ritual thought to carry your wishes to the heavens. List the lessons you’ve learned and be thankful for the price you paid for them.
Whatever you do, take time to reflect, take time to plan for change. Learn from your mistakes and failures and adjust the direction you are headed.