“What I fear I avoid.
What I fear I pretend does not exist.
What I fear is quietly killing me.
Would there were a festival for my fears, a ritual burning of what is coward in me, what is lost in me.
Let the light in before it is too late. “
Jeanette Winterson from “The Green Man”
“Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.”
Well <part 1>.
I just read a an article in one of those local papers you can pick up at Healthy Grocery stores which attempted to discuss how this time of the year <October/November/December> is the season of ‘decay and death’ … and how it was a potent time to connect with the dead <and highlighted several celebrations around the world which do just that>.
This thought was combined with the thought we human folk balk at connecting with death because it … well … seems morbid to do so.
and summer regrets
of winter wishes
summer and i
Well <part 2>.
I balk at the whole concept of ‘decay & death’ as well as the ‘morbid‘ thought.
Simplistically, seasons remind of us the cycle of Life <not death> and that death, in and of itself a sad event, contains at its very core the very simple concept that without Death, there is no Life.
This was immortalized in pop culture by Blood Sweat & Tears in their absolutely fabulous song “and when I die”:
And when I die and when I’m dead, dead and gone,
there’ll be one child born and a world to carry on, to carry on.
I’m not scared of dying and I don’t really care.
If it’s peace you find in dying, well, then let the time be near.
If it’s peace you find in dying, when dying time is here,
just bundle up my coffin cause it’s cold way down there,
I hear that’s it’s cold way down there, yeah, crazy cold way down there.
And when I die and when I’m gone,
there’ll be one child born and a world to carry on, to carry on.
While each Life is a stepping stone for every future generation each death represents a stepping stone for … well … the future.
I don’t need any Eastern religion wisdom to remind me of this … I think we all know this.
Now … I will admit that connecting with this thought is much much easier for us when we remove any personalized death and accept it as simply a turning of generations. Therefore … one of the reasons we do not celebrate death is because it can get too personal. And if that is a reason … it sure as hell is a good one.
But death itself?
While death is something we dislike, facing seasons remain something we must face year in and year out. It is a constant affirmation of the turning of time and that some things we may have gained will most likely be inevitably lost in the natural turn of time.
And, yes, as today is December 1st I am reminded that Winter is the time of Life’s strategic retreat and conservation of what gives it all life.
It is not death. And it is not decay.
It is Life’s thoughtful way to insure its existence and survival.
It is the time of incubation and rest and restoration for all things to come in the following year.
I could also suggest that winter is a time of reflection and … well … comfort. In winter’s dark nights the stars are at their clearest and we have the opportunity to see them as the sparks of potential and wishes and dreams and … well … Life. Uhm. And dreaming is never a bad thing … particularly during the ‘ebb tide of seasonal Life.’
I will not argue that as Life recedes in autumn and rests in winter we do, at least emotionally, get closer to connecting with death … but I do balk at thinking of autumn & winter as ‘things associated with death.’
I would argue it actually does a nice job of reminding us we need to let go of things. and, sure, maybe we connect with ‘the dead’ better at this time because … well … it reminds us to celebrate what we had and embrace letting go.
And that is the thing about winter … it demands to not only be felt but also that you meet it on its terms. Even better … Winter demands us to let go of things we most typically hold onto with ragged claws.
You cannot refuse its existence and you cannot ignore what was because what is … is … well … is starkly different. Where Life was once obvious it is now starkly absent.
I would note that all Eastern mysticism and ‘being in touch with the universe’ and the ‘natural ebb of the earth’ and all that stuff, at its core, just suggests that we pay attention. Pay attention to whatever energy seasons give us … and more often than not that energy it gives us is … uhm … just good ole fashioned thinking. It gives us the energy to think about our lives, lives lost and lives yet to be lived.
Acknowledgement of all of that increases your overall connection not just with ‘the universe’ but rather to the eternal pattern of life and invests a sense of energy into pretty much everything <yourself and Life>.
And just as Death breaks things down to the bare essence, winter does the same.
And maybe that is the connection.
When things are at their barest, when we are drawn closer to endings rather than beginnings, we inevitably ponder the ‘great perhaps.’
Back in September I wrote this on the first day of Fall:
I think we all seek a great perhaps of “what I know can be”. I think we all know what a better world really looks like. I think we all want to see the beauty that can be found in what is better in everyone.
And maybe it is within Fall and the falling leaves we begin to better grasp that failed plans and failed dreams can beget new plans and new dreams. And maybe it is within Winter where , in ts barest of bare essences, we are forced to begin envisioning what could be in plans and dreams because it is left to us standing in the bare environment around us.
What I do know about all seasons is that they are markers of Time … and poetically speaking … Time is always hungry for many of the things we dearly want to endure and do.
This makes Time both beautiful and doomed. Yeah. Time is beautiful and doomed. And that is where I really believe the whole ‘morbid time of the year’ goes astray.
for it seems all of Fall’s stars
and often summer and i
run through the last warm days
through the cool grass
gathering stars caught in people’s dreams
with the intent
to toss them to Winter
through windows of dawn.
Summer & i
We, especially in the West, hunger for time.
Conversely, time itself <to us Western folk> has a hunger and its hunger is for ‘things.’
It is a nasty emptiness waiting to be filled.
If there is one thing humans are fucking great at … it is filling time and stuffing whatever we can into any emptiness we can find.
Death and dying makes us reflect. It forces us to do so. Just as the bare often starkness of Winter does.
And it makes us reflect on what ‘stuff’ we have crammed into whatever Time we have had.
Oh. Maybe what it really forces us to do is reflect upon time. and that is where death truly makes us feel uncomfortable … not any morbid feeling but rather it’s just that we have been indoctrinated to focus on living … living life to its fullest, not wasting any time, to do lists that never get completed and just doing shit <just do it>.
Nowhere in that list of shit I just shared does death have a place. In fact. Death represents the exact opposite of everything society & our culture almost demands we think about 24/7.
And when forced to face death, or feel a need to connect, we are much less likely to celebrate but rather assess … assess our doing mantra versus ‘stop.’
Most of us don’t purposefully ignore connecting with death and those who have passed away because of sadness <because if it were we would be more likely to actually do it because the opposite of sadness is reflecting upon the inevitable happiness> but rather because death and past lives force us to reflect upon our ‘doing accomplishment’ <as well as it forces us to stop … which compounds the feeling of ‘shit, I haven’t done enough and I am not doing anything now>.
If you can get beyond the ‘doing’ aspect inherently death is more about sadness <loss of something or someone or time> more so than morbidity. Conquer the sadness and you have conquered death.
And all of this is just not that difficult <if you are willing to actually think about it>.
Several cultures do celebrate the autumnal solstice as the time life & death is closest. I would argue it is less a celebration but rather recognition of that which came before, and that which is dying, so that what will be will come forth.
Generations beget generations just as falls beget springs.
Death begets life.
This doesn’t mean we should celebrate impending death but rather recognize, even in sadness, life & beauty resides in the future.
Fall is of beautiful dying.
Winter is of starkness of death.
Spring is of rebirth from death.
This doesn’t mean you can find beautiful things to enjoy throughout any season. Seasons simply remind us of the fact time does not stand still and no matter how hard we try and fill up the emptiness time offers us day in and day out … leaves fall, winter comes and spring arises.
I believe it is the Celtic wheel of the year describes this time of the year as Samhain … “the veil between the worlds is thin.” Just as several other cultures they use his time to reflect upon “that which was.” In my pea like brain … it is a celebration of navel gazing. It is an intentional event to purposefully explore the valuable relationship not only between Life and Death but the past and the future.
Listen to the cry of falling leaves,
but winter breaks the silence
and warms us with words
of how to change it all
before the Fall completely ends.
I don’t believe we do not celebrate death and dying because we think it is morbid. I tend to believe we do not traditionally do so because we, as in Western civilization versus Eastern, don’t celebrate reflection.
We treat reflection more as a personal thing and not a larger more public event and celebration.
Should we celebrate reflection? Shit. I don’t know. But understanding that seasons can offer us enlightening thoughts about how we actually think about death & Life & holding on & letting go is surely not a bad thing.
As for Fall and Winter? I do not think of death and decay. I actually think of flowers. Huh?
I credit Mark Strand for making me think Winter is the time to bring flowers into your Life as he describes Winter in his poem called Blizzard of One:
“A time between times, a flowerless funeral. No more than that …”
Mark Strand <Blizzard of One>
Every funeral deserves flowers. Every Winter deserves thoughts of Life.