I live in the Midwest of the United States where you can step outside every few months and with a slow inhale and exhale say, “A new season has arrived.”
Each season has its own flavors, and I love them all. The thought of spring triggers memories of the smell of melting snow, a coming rain even when the sky is blue overhead, newly plowed fields, and the wafting aromas of spring flowers.
Summers bring the smells of cut hay and mowed grass, the supreme tastes of vegetables picked fresh from the garden instead of those bought in the store, and sweet tea under the shade tree with the summer breeze.
As summer gives way to fall, the air becomes crisper. It holds within the breezes a woodsier smell instead of green grass and hay. The colors of summer shift upward from the flower gardens to the towering trees as the leaves turn from green to shades of red, yellow, and orange.
In response to this reverie of mine, a friend who once lived much farther north quipped, “We have four seasons up there, too. We have winter and three months of bad sledding.” He was joking, of course, but there are a few places in the U.S. where the seasons deviate little. We who live in the mid-west may have a greater appreciation of the seasons of a year used as a metaphor for the times of life.
In the metaphor use, spring speaks of youth, young love, weddings, new beginnings. Summer aligns with the productive years, while fall is the time to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor. Then comes the winter, the season of rest.
While calendars lock in the change of seasons, weather conditions blur the dividing lines from year to year. Likewise, the distinctions between the seasons of life lack clarity. Some benchmarks put me solidly within the fall of my life. Being older and no longer in the workforce is sound evidence of fall, but I am still being productive as in summer. A better definition than age and retirement is the flavor of the season.
I have noticed at family gatherings how activities and my participation in them have shifted for me. Instead of playing with my cousins, my delight is in watching the grandchildren play and use their imaginations as I once did.
I left spring and stepped into summer as I left the family unit to start out on my own. Along came a bride, then children. While many years passed since the “I do,” my summer season went as fast as a summer break. One by one, my children had entered their summer seasons. I was asked to give my girls to other men to love and protect them. Retirement no longer lay beyond the horizon.
As my children came to our house for celebrations, pride swelled within me for the way my kids kept a watchful eye on the children playing, a responsibility that once was mine. Having a tiny hand grasp mine and a small voice calling me daddy became a memory, replaced now with the occasional “Grandpa.” Joy fills me as my children joke and banter with one another. I remember my grandmother being asked once if she had heard a joke. When she said no, she was asked why she laughed. “Because I enjoy seeing you all have fun.” I didn’t fully understand her answer at a young age. Now it is clear.
Like the colors shifting upward to the trees, my thoughts become colored with the memories of the years I’ve lived through, echoed in the lives of my children and grandchildren instead of originating with me.
My hair has grayed considerably, suggesting the nearness of my winter season. However, my doctors say my annual physical test results are more in line with a younger man. It seems my winter season is still a safe way off, but I don’t know how many of my autumn leaves have turned or fallen.
We are told by psychologists that youth live with a sense of immortality, shunning the idea of dying young. Experiences had taught me the opposite. I often wondered if I would live long enough to see the next millennium, having been born in mid-century. That is probably why I told the Lord I wanted to experience all of life, to live fully through each season, to experience what each one has to offer.
Currently, I am enjoying the fall flavors of my life and not worrying about when the winter will come. Because memories seem like yesterday, it’s hard for me to accept I am in my fall years.
In the Fast Lane
Our nine-year-old granddaughter jumped into a conversation I was having with my wife about how our wedding doesn’t seem that long ago to ask an important question: “Is life fast?”
My wife, the first to answer, said, “When you are young, it seems like the days drag by. As you get older, they seem to speed up until you’re suddenly old.”
Is life fast? You bet!
When we pause each day to reflect and treasure moments, we acknowledge—even in our troubled times—that the day does not belong to us. It is God who gives us breath, and Jesus who gives us eternity. The day belongs to Him. Wisdom comes through living in that confidence—in and for every season. Moses must have had that revelation when he penned the words, “So, teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12 NKJV).