Bare branches etched into a late autumn blue sky inspire me as I work outside this week. I feel exhilarated as I rake up the last brown leaves, help button up our family's canoe rental and guide business, put in the storm windows, and hope for a last warm day to finish an outdoor painting project.
Why the exhilaration? After all, here in New England the days will be shorter, colder, darker, icy.
More than speaking of change, the seasons actually teach me about continuity. The predictability of the falling leaves confirms for me that they will reappear again - that renewal is ongoing. I don't see loss in the barer landscape. I see strength and beauty.
Those trees will weather the winter. All of the energy of the trees is at work in the roots, strengthening their endurance. And under the soil, my flower bulbs are safe. Spring - rebirth - always comes. The local river will soon be flowing with canoeists again. Growth is continual.
And so I'm finding in my own life. For instance, with each passing year, I have an increased awareness of the tender beauty of God's creation. My eyes are opened to expanded perceptions. I'm seeing my life more like a flower bud eternally opening than a flower fading.
I can only explain these insights in terms of a revolutionary definition of "seasons" that I have discovered in the textbook of Christian Science, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy. In it, the concept of seasons as including change or loss is replaced by a spiritual definition: periods of spiritual ascension. The passage reads: "The periods of spiritual ascension are the days and seasons of Mind's creation, in which beauty, sublimity, purity, and holiness - yea, the divine nature - appear in man and the universe never to disappear" (page 509).
In spiritual reality, there are no seasons of darkness. This idea validates all that my intuition tells me and lifts my thought above impositions of sadness that the world attaches to the changing seasons. It tells me that I can trade in any shred of melancholy and nostalgia for this new view of seasons. I can replace thoughts of inevitable decline with the knowledge that the divine law promises only renewal, new views, wider vistas.
Why? Because the building block of our existence - spiritual goodness - can never change. The Bible tells us that we are made in God's likeness, and the substance of God, Spirit, is eternal, unchanging goodness.
I look at my college-bound son who is raking leaves beside me. Ten years ago the ritual at this time of the year was jumping into huge piles of crunchy leaves. In this tall, lanky teen working beside me now, I see the same qualities of Life and goodness that I saw in the young child.
His spiritual makeup never changes. And that fact is getting us over any bumps of the teen years, bringing out the gold in his character, and reshaping our relationship to one of helpfulness, patience, and understanding. I see seasons of closeness ahead.
I think about my father, who passed on this time of year five years ago, and realize that he lives on in the "days and seasons of Mind's creation." There continue to be new views of "beauty, sublimity, purity, and holiness" appearing to him. He is still growing now, just as I am. No wonder that as each year goes by, he becomes more and more vivid in my thought. His presence, smile, words, humor - his spiritual individuality - become clearer to me, as if he were right beside me.
Life is all about increasing glory, not lessening days of light. This was Jesus' promise: "This is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life" (I John 2:25).
As Science and Health explains, we're not like "a weed growing apace or a flower withered by the sun and nipped by untimely frosts ... this is true only of a mortal, not of a man in God's image and likeness. The truth of being is perennial ..." (page 265).
We don't have to accept sadness mixed with God's gladness. We can embrace the distinct spiritual hues illustrated in each season - the full harvest of autumn, the depth and coziness of winter, the gratitude and rejoicing of the holidays, the rebirth of spring, and the fullness of summer. The kaleidoscope of spiritual qualities will rearrange itself to form new designs, but in the "seasons of Mind's creating" those qualities will never be diminished.
The Lord shall
guide thee continually,
and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones:
and thou shalt be
like a watered garden,
and like a spring of water,
whose waters fail not.