Fall’s endings and spring’s beginnings
Here in the southern hemisphere, fall is coming. A welcome translation for those in the global north: spring is well on its way!
Every time I experience this seasonal transition in South America, I am struck by some new curiosity about it. I’ve discovered just how deeply my mind associates holidays and seasons to months of the year. If you woke me from sleep and asked me what month it was — I’d tell you, without hesitation, it’s September. The leaves are turning and falling. The kids are going back to school. Only then, I’d remember, no, it’s March.
This year, what I’m noticing are qualities that distinguish the transition between winter to spring from that of summer to fall. While spring and fall share much — days of similar length, more moderate temperatures, the quality of transition… like birth and death, they differ, greatly.
The endings of autumn begin slowly, while summer youth still shines. The colors yellow and orange gradually begin appear, just a little bit at a time. Plants flower. Leaves dry, and begin to fall. New sounds can be heard. Rustling under trees. The quiet descent of a leaf. Fruits and nuts begin to drop to the forest floor. The smell of damp and drying leaves mixes with the sweet odor of fermented fruit.
Perhaps it is the nature of aging to be gradual. As soon as the life form is mature, it begins to age. Slowly, bit by bit. If you don’t observe, it can appear sudden, but when you watch, the process is relatively slow. Take my skin, for example, slowly wrinkling. Definitely changing. Day by day, year by year.
As autumn arrives here, slowly but surely… I want to soothe those I love in the global North, who look out their windows to one long winter. They see scenes that may look no different from 3 months ago. But on this magical planet where it’s all connected, as much as autumn is coming here, spring is coming there. I want to tell you! Spring is coming! You can’t see it yet, but we’re in the transition. Soon it will arrive.
And as I notice my urge to share this… I realize that the way that spring arrives is, perhaps, just characteristic of the arrival of all life.
Birth is like: Nothing… nothing… and then suddenly! The flower blooms, egg hatches, the new life is born.
But that sense we have of nothing… it’s not really nothing. We just can’t see what is growing. We can’t observe what is happening under the snow and beneath the ground. Inside a seed or an egg or a womb.
Because you can’t see it, I want to tell you, promise you, soothe you… It’s coming.
Those leaves that fell in autumn… the fruit, the seeds, the bulbs… they’re getting ready. They’re coming to life, just as surely as here in the southern hemisphere, much of what was born in the spring is dying.
Today I’m left wondering how this applies to our lives as humans.
Why does birth always feel so sudden, while healthy aging feels relatively more slow? Is it merely our perspective?
For if the birth of plant life in the spring can be traced back to the falling leaves, leaves which were born the spring before… Where does life begin and where does it end? How does this beginning and ending happen, and how is it experienced?
Maybe there is no such thing as the beginning or the end. Maybe it is all a matter of perspective.