In his book, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, Quaker philosopher Parker Palmer states that the cycle of seasons is a reminder that life’s journey never really ends. It’s the myth of eternal return in which we all participate.
Similar to Carl Jung’s belief that we naturally pursue emotional growth toward our ultimate goal: our full development or individuation and a meaningful connection with our souls’ primal energy. Palmer says that we go through the cycle of seasons asking, reaffirming, or pursuing the existential questions, “Whom am I?” and “Whose am I?”
It doesn’t matter how certain we think we are of where we are from and where we are heading; the questions remain the same. We live those existential questions throughout our lives, Palmer says, because life is paradoxical. We move forward but unsure of the distance. We are only sure when it’s time to be careful crossing the upper ridge because of the slick that the winter’s ice brings with it. Or when it’s time to avoid the low roads because of the summer floods. The truth is that we are at the mercy of the existential paradox we call life, facing moments of light and darkness at the expense of the rhythms of right and wrong and the rewards and irony of life itself.
The Seasons of Life
Palmer states that the cycle of seasons is a play of powers with which we can conspire but never control, and as such, it’s a good metaphor for the paradox of life. Building on this metaphor, then, we must rethink the idea of making our lives as we are just able to grow them. Believing that we are making everything that life offers is the byproduct of our egos’ desperate struggle for control, Palmer says.
In his book, Seasons of Life, Jim Rohn states that life is like the changing seasons, and the constant factor is our attitude toward it. We enjoy life’s summers, and we prepare for winters. It’s inevitable that if we don’t plant in the spring, there’s nothing to harvest in the fall, and the dreadful winter always comes, Rohn argues.
Spring is synonymous with opportunity, Rohn says. It’s time to plant what we are going to harvest in autumn. It’s time to start new projects, putting our creativity and initiative to work. Spring comes slow and messy (rainy, muddy), though, yet stemming possibility and renewed hospitality. Blooming color and new life, spring breaks us away from winter’s deadness. It’s the newness of life season.
Summer is synonymous with growth, Palmer says. It’s the time to enjoy life and nurture growth. It’s the time to water, prune, and protect what we sowed in spring. Summer also confronts us with the contradiction of abundance and scarcity. We expect a bounty of beauty and abundance in summer, yet there are summers when nature brings scarcity through flood or drought, Palmer says. One always pointing to the eventual return of the other. Like life’s dialectical expectancy of both normalcy and eventful circumstances.
Autumn is synonymous with wholeness. It’s a season of beauty and decline, dying and seeding, says Palmer. What is soon to die scatters with great abandon the seeds that will bring new life in the spring. There’s a conspiracy of opposites in autumn to make a hidden wholeness that keeps refreshing life with color and nothingness, expiration and newness.
Winter is unique in its uninspiring appearance. Rohn sees this season as a threat that always comes true in many ways: a long period of deadness or nothingness, despair, loneliness, disappointment, depression. For Palmer, winter witnesses to life’s paradoxical complexity. Death seems to rein unrestrained in winter’s stillness, yet nature is renewing itself underground.
Owning a Season
Winter is the season that speaks the clearest to me. Dying may be the peak of the winter events, but the perk of the season is clarity. Winter is a time to listen to the life that wants to live in me. Metaphorically speaking, the season of winter clears, sometimes brutally, the landscaping of our lives and souls, Palmer says, so we can see and hear ourselves more clearly and rethink those existential questions that roadmap our journeys, “Whom am I?” “Whose am I?”
Winter is the time to think about the “Road Closed” signs I found in my way – relationships, career, self. Those closed roads dared to stop me in my heels, but they also pointed me toward the new journey I needed to travel to explore deeper into my shadow self. This painful but necessary winter journey offers the reward of clarity, a clarity that would allow us to see the sprouts of new life and possibilities when the new season comes.
The best way to enjoy the cycle of seasons is by being aware of what each season means and brings with them and the opportunities for personal growth they offer as we live through them.