Ebbing and Flowing ~ Tides and Seasons of the inner worlds
As I sit here, I can see the big oak tree beyond my garden and see the golden yellow of some of the leaves as they begin the process of changing colour and then falling. Many are still green but the chilly nights and the shorter days are inescapable evidence that the year has turned and it’s now Autumn for real. Winter follows hard on its heels, but then there is Spring to come.
I’ve heard a lot of folks fretting that here in the UK, we didn’t get much of a summer, and as a bee-keeper I saw that there were fewer sunny days than I’d have liked. The apple crop in this part of England has been very poor. I’ve heard (and I have noticed too) that sloes are scarce too. This for me is one of the exciting, unpredictable aspects of the natural world. No two summers are ever the same; each year, Spring is a bran-tub of discoveries. Each year I wonder whether we’ll get snow at Christmas, and I run amok collecting conkers and filling my face with blackberries when the hedgerows reach ripeness.
And yet, I desperately want my inner world to be always summer. Always full of sunshine and mown grass and hot, sultry nights to sit out and count the stars. To have the golden waving fields of wheat rather than the raggedy stubble awaiting the plough. To have the bloom on the peach and never the untidy decay of the fallen unwanted fruits. To have the long lazy days at the beach rather than standing at the door looking at leaden skies filled with unromantic sleet and freezing rains.
I don’t want to endure the winter storms that threaten to destroy much loved trees, and the flash floods that wash away familiar landscapes. I want the cheeping baby birds all fluffy and new, rather than the old, exhausted king stag waiting to be ousted from his kingdom by a fatal wound.
This is normal to want this. Most of us do. But without the changing seasons, the world would become static, stagnant. I remember a scene from Buffy the Vampire Slayer where the librarian Giles sighed about it always seeming to be perfect, sunny weather and how it depressed him. I’m not sure how many agree with him, but on reflection I do.
It’s not just merely about contrast, of needing to know hard times before you can enjoy good ones. It’s something more mysterious, more holistic. And it’s not just relevant to the physical seasons. The ebb and flow of my mental, emotional and spiritual life embraces some extremes. When things are bad, I find that all I want is relief from it (and no surprises that I feel that way) but last night I began to question whether this feeling is not directly as a result of an inability to accept that like the tides, my inner life ebbs and flows. And I also wonder if it is made worse by the cultural pressure to be only ever happy (or keep schtumm if you’re not) and the myriad ways in which this is manifested through medication, consumerism, positive thinking etc.
I have also wondered if we have begun to see a state of perpetual sunshine as our right and our due. To be happy is a great thing. But to be always and only happy? To expect always to be happy puts vast but vague pressure on people.
I’m quite low at the moment, that is to say, today(and for a few days recently). I’m consolidating all the recent stresses (good and bad) and trying to process them. My body is telling me I need to be quiet and still, and my mind says the same. Just like the creatures who are beginning their preparations for winter and winter sleep, I need to listen to my instincts about what will nourish and heal me. I need to just accept that I don’t feel chipper and lively, and optimistic, and it’s OK to feel that way even if others think I’d somehow lacking in moral fibre because I can’t just push on regardless.
It’s Autumn, and time to retreat, hide away, tell stories in the long-house, whittle wood into childrens’ toys. It’s also time to accept that it can’t always be summer and that the other seasons, inner and outer, have their powers and their gifts too.