I took up an old pail, a sponge, and cleanser and scrubbed up the old chick pen this morning. The sun shone and birds chirped to the glory of springtime. After the long, frozen winter, freedom from thick sweaters and heavy coats felt like being released from prison. Dirt, dead spiders, and unmentionables fell away from the wood as I scrubbed foamy detergent over the rough surface. It took a couple of rounds, scrubbing, rinsing, and scrubbing again, before I found the pure white paint under all the accumulated grit and goo.
Though I wasn’t exactly getting cleaner as I continued the process, I did identify with the sensation of dropping old cares and worn-out worries. As warmer weather arrives with its windy arms out like a long lost relative, boots, coats, gloves, and all the assorted outerwear can be washed, sorted, and put away. The wood stove can be cleaned one last time and shut down for the season. My kids will finish their final tests, close their books, and head outside like soldiers returning from a long campaign in the trenches. The animals will shed their winter coats, and new grass will spring up through the brown and lifeless stems of last fall. Birds are nesting, and frogs have already assembled on the brink of the pond like a church choir ready to croak their hearts out.
I tend to think of autumn and winter as the contemplative seasons of the year, but that is not necessarily so. In the turning of each season, there is a process of ending before the new beginning.
I watched a new mother proudly showing off her new baby the other day. I could feel her exultation. In the early days, I’d hear stories of mothers sending their kids off to college … or planning weddings … or welcoming grandchildren … and I couldn’t comprehend their joy. I could only identify with the new mother.
But now I’ve lived through enough parental stages that I can join the proud mother’s moment, sigh in relief at a graduation, grin at a kid’s first paycheck, and know that in time, the rest will come.
I can also grieve in lost innocence and cry in shared pain. Sometimes winter storms break branches and tear whole trees from the yard. Sometimes the power goes out, and it seems like it will never come back on again. Sometimes loved ones get sick — or old — and they pass from the current of our lives. At times, selfish weakness rears its ugly head, and innocent souls suffer. In the worst of dark winter, the cold seeps from the blustery outdoors into the marrow of my bones, and I wonder if I even want to see another season.
But despite wintertime sorrows, eventually light breaks through the clouds, warmth revitalizes my skin, and, as the gleaming white pens soak up the brilliant sunshine and spring buds burst from the tips of trees, I can respectfully put away the worn-out season. I’ll pack it neatly away where it belongs and let it rest. After all, each turn of the year, like a chapter in life’s book, is unique and precious, deserving a gracious goodbye before facing the future with a hopeful hello.
Copyright 2019 Ann K. Frailey