Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Changing Seasons

A question has been passed around on some of the blogs I've read recently - "What signals the beginning of autumn for you?" Of course the question could also have been phrased "What signals the end of summer?" It's all about the little things that let us know that the season is changing.

I thought about the question and decided it was different for me from year to year. Some years there's a pivotal moment when the first thing changes. It might be the first cup of hot tea. It might be the first fire of the season in the woodstove. Or just that "something" about the light and air that changes as summer wanes. Other years it's not one of these things, but a constant questioning at each of these markers - is it fall yet? Yes? No? And some years, I'm sorry to say, if I'm frazzled enough, distracted enough, I can look around me and realize the new season is well under way and somehow I missed the change completely.

This morning I woke up feeling grumbly. For no discernable reason. It wasn't hormones. Or rather, it's not the right time of the month for me to think it's hormonal, although with the menopause goddess dancing in and out of my days, constantly flirting with me now, it's hard to tell what I'll feel like on ANY day of my cycle. Anyway, I wasn't feeling crabby because of anything bad happening in my life. In fact I've had a handful of good news lately. I wasn't mad at anyone. Husband? No. Children? No. Dogs? No. Cats? Well, one, but with thirteen of them, at least one is on my shit list at any given time. No, I was just grumpy for no reason.

Coming up with no reason, and therefore no way to correct it, I figured the best thing to do was to try to ignore my mood best I could and get on with today's tasks. As it was a brilliant blue, if somewhat chilly, sky, I pulled a load of wet clothes out of the washing machine, dumped them in a wicker basket, and carried them outside to hang on the clothesline. As I walked out into the backyard I thought about how there won't be too many more days until I'm forced to switched to the winter routine of using the clothes dryer.

Just as I was setting the basket down, I noticed it. The garden. All of the heat loving plants were blackened and limp. The peppers were only stalks with their once full leaves hanging dead. The tomato vines were looped stringy and spent up and down their wire cages. We had finally had our first frost of the season.

In a blink of an instant it came to me that this, even though I hadn't known it on a conscious level, was what had put me in a bad mood this morning. I know that doesn't make sense. It's one of those unexplainable things. I just knew.

It's not that I was terribly upset at the garden being done for the year. Honestly, I hadn't planted much of a garden to be upset about this year. I was so busy this spring and I just never ever got caught up. In some ways it's more of a relief. I can stop feeling guilty about not having planted much - it's too late now.

What upset me was the symbolism of the first frost. More then anything else, this is truly a sign that autumn has unequivocally arrived. The lazy days of summer are done. All those things I was planning on getting done this year - many of them have time limits on them. Harvesting the garden, putting up the apple harvest, making jalapeno jam, transplanting bedding plants - all these things need to be done now or they won't get done at all. Their time will have passed. And while there's always another summer, another chance at them next year, when we're talking about the bigger picture, my life changing seasons from summer to autumn, for some things there are no second chances.

I've been at loose ends lately, feeling overwhelmed by all the things I want or need to do. It feels completely indulgent, as I'm one of the more fortunate people I know. I can usually call my own shots. My schedule is more flexible then most people's schedule. I have the time and the money, within reason, to do many many things. And yet I spend a lot of my time and energy feeling overwhelmed and, in the end, not accomplishing much at all, even when most of my choices are things I REALLY REALLY WANT TO DO!

I'm struggling with my personal changing of the seasons. It's not that I think that my life is over - snort! Not at all. In fact, let's go back to that garden frost analogy. Looking out over the garden this afternnon, there are still plenty of hardy plants going strong. The grapes haven't succumbed yet and still hide ripe, juicy bunches of grapes. The swiss chard will be even tastier because of the cold temperatures. There are several flowers going for a second and even third bloom before they call it quits. If I'd planted any this year, there would be plenty of carrots and parsnips for months to come. But - it's too late for tomatoes. Too late for peppers. Or eggplant. Or delicate greens.

My life is still rich and full. But it's too late for some things. Every time I make a choice now, I realize it's no longer a choice between now or later. It's very often a choice between now or never. There are only so many years, only so many seasons, only so many chances. When I was younger I could always tell myself that anything I wanted but didn't pursue then could be returned to at a later time in life. Now is that later time.

Not that there's not any later later left. I plan to stick round for decades to come - knock on wood. But unlike the younger me who thought of the concept of later time as being pretty much unlimited, the current me knows that not true. If I chose to do Option A with my life now, there very likely won't be time now to do Option B later. Some days, understanding that "Quantities are limited" makes me feel more of an urgency to get to it, whatever it is. But most days, it only makes me feel more overwhelmed because I'm not very good at making what feel like permanent choices. And yes, I know how unproductive it is. That's why I feel so overwhelmed and frustrated with myself. Aka - grumbly!

The funny thing is, stumbling upon the reason for my mood lightened it. I felt better knowing the why. Oh, DEATH! Then never mind. Because really, it's not like we can do anything about it, can we?! As much as the prospect of growing older and having to make all those choices once and for all might be hard to face, there's really only one alternative - and that is to not grow older at all. Well, two alternatives. We could just die now, and avoid getting older. Or we can grow physically older while the rest of us - spiritually, mentally, emotionally - refuses to come along for the ride. I have no intention of being one of those people who's physical age and maturity age part ways and they end up being a whiny, stupid, resentful ol' geezer. Or in my case, would that be geezerette?

In any case, I'm grateful for the glimpse into my little demons today. They're still hanging around. I mean, I haven't jumped up suddenly joyful and completely enlightened, batted them all out the nearest window, and am now ready to make all those decisions I'm avoiding. I'm still feeling overwhelmed. My demons are still flitting about trying to trip me up, pull my hair, sticking out their tongues. They're such annoying little buggers. But at least I'm not wondering where those little cackling noises are coming from.

So, anyway - changing seasons. Yeah. Sigh.


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