The season of summer means different things to different people. In Michigan, my home state, summer is a break from the other seasons which dramatically contrast each other. The changing landscape from green to golden to gray to white to a richer green again creates a natural rhythm, where change is anticipated, celebrated, and cherished. Northerners know that by the time they are sick of one season, another one is about to bring change!
In Texas, summer begins in May, after a brief flowery-fragrant spring in March and April. Temperatures rise quickly and it stays hot for months! The summer’s end is vague on a dry brushed canvas…thristy and still. Changes that speak of autumn are subtle and simple, the Sawtooth maple’s brownish gold, the crape myrtles with a touch of red; not at all the drama of the north. I have observed that ‘autumn’ (as we know it in glossy magazine pictures and Hallmark cards) arrives around Thanksgiving, but only if all the elements are right. It takes years to adapt one’s inner clock to this kind of unpredictable, inconsistent rhythm. It took me about 10 years to stop grieving for the loss of all four seasons, another five to start ‘seeing’ the quiet changes of this landscape, and have learned to appreciate what ‘is here’ at this point in my life.
Like poets and writers before me, I can’t help but see the similarities between the changing seasons and the journey of womanhood. When I left home, at just 20 years old and still in the childish spring of my life, I grieved for the loss of my home state and close family ties. Then more personal changes and motherhood enveloped my daily doings, and life became thick and too busy to miss anything except a good night’s sleep! I was adapting to a less dramatic inner life, and the gentle changes of growing babies took over. Dreaming, dancing, moving, struggling, developing my career with children in tow, defined the summer of my life. It seemed long when I was in the middle of it, yet brief as it is coming to an end.
In the last few years, I am now beginning to appreciate being where I am, in mid-life, accepting all the subtle changes and embracing this season of slowing down. I am not ‘in the winter of my discontent,’ as I had thought when moving through the questioning and searching time of menopause. Like false labor, menopause can make you confused and anxious, like something you are not ready for is about to happen! I didn’t go insane or run away from my life, though at moments I thought I was going to! Instead, the struggling brought an awakening to the season of truth. I discovered my long days of summer were coming to an end. I am, indeed, changing into an aromatic autumn day, rich with wisdom, wrinkling around the edges, a rosy round apple, carefully stepping along a golden path of reflection and awareness. Like all the seasons of the year and of life, it’s lovely if you are ‘present.’
My sisters and northern friends share pictures of boating on the great lakes, shorelines lapping with waves, picnic parties in liveable heat. Yes, I still yearn for the summers of my life that were painted on that same canvas. But here, summers are slower, like a lazy river; mesquite BBQ smoke warm and heavy in the air, bedazzled dances at rugged dance halls, and the notable ‘sizzle’ of mid-day heat that slowly draws out into a warm, still night. It’s different, longer, perhaps a less celebrated season than it’s northern cousin. It’s a gentle kind of dance, a lively two-steps that glides into a slow comfortable waltz.
Like my ducks and ducklings, I am settling into this Texas summer with a slow, quiet acceptance. I’ll take a little man-made pond and a dry patch of grass, if that is all that is available, and hang with my babies….who may be the real secret to staying young and spirited! Icy sweet tea in the afternoons, light grilled dinners; summer here is an easy-going country song, a story worth singing.
Our visitors are southern ducks. Ha! They know nothing else. And the stranger duck, that has returned again today, is less and less threatening to the mother ducks. Thin and pensive, it may be a lost teenager looking for a home. Like our hobo cat, Squeak, who now has been in and out of our yard for water, she just looks at the ducks and slowly walks away. No struggle for territory, no ownership of this space, no aggression to retrieve what was hers. It’s too hot to do anything else. Like an aging woman leaving her summer behind, we are in the season for languishing in the shade of acceptance.