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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Full-on Fall--Seasonal Transformations

Well, it's mid-October.  Teri has just finished pulling up all the spent summer vegetable plants and filling all the garden beds with fresh compost.  Soon that compost will be buried under a blanket of leaves to age and wait for Spring.  We do garden year-round, so the winter veggies: kohlrabi, broccoli, kale, cabbage, chard, and Brussels sprouts are still growing away in one bed, but the rest of the garden is looking pretty dormant.

Leaves are falling, the rains have come, the chickens are laying less prolifically (just when we were getting pretty self-righteous over their daily output), the lawn furniture has been stacked and sequestered and our thoughts have turned to holidays, warm sweaters, and digging out the rain gear we'll depend on for the next several months.  There is a need to pull in, to pull away from the world a bit and focus in on family, close friends, conversation, and introspection.  That all feels as seasonal to me as the shedding of the bright orange and red maple leaves along our street.

Lately, I have been thinking much about seasons, aging, and cycles--the tensions that exist when the seasons change or the seasons need to change. I see the older, the what-has-been holding on with vice grip and deep roots as the younger, the what-will-be are trying energetically to push up through the dying foliage and tangled roots.  I can't remember the last time I sat in a meeting where this tension hasn't been at the core of things--the core of managing change, letting go, making room, stepping aside, and reflection on who should be talking and how much.  We are not doing a very good job of honoring the inevitable changing of the seasons.

I am solidly in the middle and maybe there is some validity in the role of the middle-aged.  I can see the struggle from multiple perspectives.  I am not so old that I don't remember what it was like to be at the beginning of my career and my urge to be relevant and useful.  I am not so young that I don't understand the indignant clenching of those who have spent a lifetime doing important and soul-feeding work.  It is hard to be patient and it is scary to let go.  There is a tendency to want young people to step in and take up the causes, but they should do it our way, they should listen, learn and remind us of younger versions of ourselves (or how we like to imagine we once were.) And what will happen to the older when the identity of our work is taken from us?  Who will we be then?

We bark at the young to honor their elders, which, as near as I can tell, means that we want them to do what we tell them to do, but the honoring does not seem to go both ways.  The very fact that the moniker "elder" has become yet another self-identifying claim to authority as opposed to a title of honor granted by others speaks to what I call Baby Boomer Entitlement. "I am an elder" is quite a different statement than "you are an elder."

I feel very fortunate to be hearing the voices of the younger--educated, passionate, surging with energy and fresh perspective--and they are ready and willing to take up the challenges.  Will they make mistakes? Of course.  Do they sometimes seem brash, impatient and bordering on obnoxious?  Yes, sometimes.  Do they lack appreciation for all the work that has gone before? No, in fact, I see a great reverence for what has happened and the possibilities that lay ahead.

I am also fortunate to be hearing the voices of those that have been at this for many decades.  I see both great and not-so-great examples of how to age with grace and dignity.  It is possible to stay involved, expand one's experiences and still make room for the new growth. It is also possible to stifle and squelch with the heavy rotting leaves of stubborn immobility. There is value in introspection and self-reflection--just as there is value in action.

The seasons change whether we are ready and happy about it or whether we resist.  It happens anyway. We do have choices about how we approach the inevitable cycles and changes--with wonder, active participation and support--or reluctance and bitterness.  I am always a little sad to see the garden die back in the deep Autumn--I miss those productive tomato plants and fruit trees that have given so much--but for a healthy garden, they must let go and give life to what is yet to be.

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