R oses still bloom, bursts of red against yellowing leaves that loosen and fall. The flowers keep going and growing, even the impatiens planted back in May. The only thing obscuring their color is a pile of windblown leaves collecting in the corner of the garden.
Unseasonable warmth this year has given summer an encore, but fall refuses to wait in the wings past its cue. And so the seasons are layered, hour to hour, day to day—fall to summer to fall, and back again. Likewise, I start my day in a light thermal zip-up, shed as the temperature warms enough for shirtsleeves. By the time the sun dips, a fast and early descent that takes me by surprise these days, I’m hunting through the house for the chairback where I left a sweater earlier in the day.
From outside to inside, it is the season of layers. Summer flowers against autumn leaves, t-shirts and warm-ups, bright sun and fast-approaching night.
Observing nature, I feel summer and autumn dance within me, too—all the beginnings and endings, some incidental and others consequential. The older I get, the more I see life as one continuous transition.
Years ago, a wise friend of mine named Doris used to say, “You can’t get to New York unless you leave Philadelphia.” Change does require decisiveness—the diet, the exercise regime, the for-sale sign, the moving van. But most life transitions, I’ve found, lack the abruptness of a wheels-off-the-ground departure. Sometimes we cling to what was, delaying and denying time’s inevitable march. And, sometimes what we must give up—caffeine or sugar, anger or resentment—trails behind us, nipping at our heels. Amid change, we have a foot in two places, straddling our metaphoric New York and Philadelphia. Stuck between stasis and progress, we sometimes feel neither here nor there. Rather than resist, there is wisdom in acknowledging the layers, even what’s contradictory or confusing. We’re too complex for a binary life of on-and-off.
The same goes for healing, whether a person, a couple, a family, a country. While some pieces have jagged edges, others remain tightly fused. Finding these layers can be lifesaving, acknowledging the good and strong that remain. Earlier in my life, during a period of emotional devastation, I learned to stand in my strengths to let my brokenness heal. Only by acknowledging what remained intact could I keep in motion. Slowly, I transitioned from pain to wholeness. Experiences I surely would have avoided at the time became my best teachers, building inner strength and bolstering resilience. Today, looking back, I am grateful for these painful transitions for where they ultimately brought me.
Each moment, I like to think, is layered by all that is, was, and is yet to be. We each exist in the timelessness of being a baby, a child, young adult, mid-life, and one graced by aging. Memories, present experiences, and unfolding future remind us that, as human beings, we are walking and talking transitions along a timeline that is beyond comprehension. We are constantly in the process of becoming, until we are here no more, and beyond that, too. We are every summer and fall, in a dance of birth and death and rebirth.
Today I meditate on the roses that still bloom even as the leaves yellow and fall. It is contradictory and complex, and even a little bit messy and the past sheds its skin like piles of dried leaves. But it’s all beautiful and good, a wonder constantly in the making.
Image Credits: Pat Commins, Patricia Crisafulli