Monday, January 30, 2012
The Cycling Seasons of the Soul
Two days ago, I was out tramping in the woods with my little dog Maclovio, taking photographs of the signs of the season. I’m fascinated by the changes that take place, month to month, week to week, even day to day, out there in a world unfettered by modern notions of how things should be done.
The cycling of the seasons is subtle. You have to watch for it or one morning, as if it happened overnight, you wake up and all the fruit trees are blooming, birds are darting amorously and spring has replaced winter as if by magic. But if you’re watching on a daily basis, you’ll find this isn’t the case. The limbs of trees may be bare of leaves but each day, even the coldest, snowiest ones, buds are forming and slowly beginning to swell; birds arrive in little flocks, first, and begin their wooing dips and bobs, far in advance of actual pairing; and spring interpenetrates winter like a slow fire running under the roots of the grass, bursting buried seeds and pushing up little puffs of leaves like green smoke.
When I think about yesterday’s question, What does the soul want? this kind of cyclic living comes first to mind. Driven by the needs of job, family and societal expectations, we have largely abandoned cyclical living in favor of 365 days a year of frenetic work, fun and upward mobility. If any tender buds are forming during the long stretches of winter, they may well be abraded off, by spring. If the soul is bobbing, fluttering and hopping toward a new love object, we may well be too busy to notice. We may sense the gradual transition from one season to the next in the kinds of clothing we put on or discard, or in the improvement of driving conditions on the way to work – all while the soul remains frozen in the eternal ice fields of a soulless society.
It takes real dedication to the soul’s needs to tear oneself away from the daily grind. The whispers we hear from our own inner reaches can be confounding, like dreams that come bringing strange imagery and plots that unfold in ways we’ll never see on TV. The soul’s desire may be simple cessation – to be alone and quiet for a spell; or it may ask for more movement – maybe learning to dance the rumba in flamenco shoes; or to study Mandarin Chinese; or to spend time in a retirement home, talking to another generation about their life experiences and their needs.
What is always surprising to me is that, if I take the time to tune in, the soul is always ready with an answer. Like a child with a Christmas wish list, there’s always a part of me that keeps a running tally of all the things that the soul desires for this incarnation; that heralds the soul's own seasons. It’s easy to ignore that soft, wishful voice. But if we do so long enough, we find ourselves as was suggested yesterday, with our backs to an abyss, our heels over the edge, wondering how we ever came to such a vertiginous place.
There’s a dangerous stretch of highway that I sometimes travel. There have been so many accidents there that the roads department has erected big signs that say, simply, SLOW DOWN AND LIVE! That’s not bad advice, even when not behind the wheel, and if you take a moment and listen, you’ll probably find that your soul is in agreement.