October 22, 2017

Seasons and the Time of our Lives through Poetry and Prose

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;

Conspiring with him how to load and bless

With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;”

(“To Autumn” John Keats)

In the poem “To Autumn” John Keats addresses the beauty and the abundance of the season and it’s “intimacy with the sun”. He suggests a time of warmth and plenty, pictured as sitting just on the edge of those feelings of desolation usually associated with winter, which eventually lead to loss; emotions all synonymous with the passing of time.

On re-reading this poem, I was transported back to my high school years and the Advanced English Literature classes taught by an amazing teacher, Joy Moore, who opened our minds and instilled an immense appreciation for the various literary works by Keats, Lord Byron, Robert Browning, Robert Frost, Shakespeare, Chaucer… to name a few.

Then I remembered that in the Bible, Ecclesiastes chapter 3 also talked about a season, more specifically about there being a “season and a time to every purpose

under heaven…

A time to be born, and a time to die;

A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose;

A time to keep and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew;

A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love and a time to hate;

A time of war, and a time of peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8)

Taking a look at the phases and stages we go through while on this earth we should often pause, reflect, and look around at all that’s taking place in our lives. The mishaps and the mistakes we make which quite often turn into teachable moments.

We have the privilege of seeing life thru the eyes of our children and then the grandchildren who I believe are the second chances we’ve been given by God, to experience life, and to really enjoy parenting or co-parenting without all the stress and responsibilities that come with child rearing.

The question is often posed (more so to the aged) as to what phase of our lives we’ve most enjoyed. How’s a person to decide? I believe that every phase has its joys and its sorrows, its ups and its downs. The years may have been defined by-- a budding romance or the catastrophic break up with ‘the one’, a marriage, the birth of the first or third child. The joys and thrills that offspring can bring, the possible serious mishaps of the teenage years, the marriage of the first- born interspersed with the illness or death of a parent or loved one, or the birth of the first grandchild. All comprising the seasons or times of change in our lives-- and I haven’t even touched the highs and lows of our academic and professional lives.

It was at the birthday celebration of one of my children that I recalled the words of this well- known poem/song, which in turn spurred on this internal discourse, and I found myself reciting….

“Is this the little girl I carried? Is this the little boy at play?

I don’t remember growing older, when did they?

When did she get to be a beauty? When did he grow to be so tall?

Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?

Sunrise sunset, Sunrise sunset, swiftly flow the days,

Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers,

Blossoming even as we gaze…

Sunrise sunset, Sunrise sunset, swiftly fly the years,

One season following another, laden with happiness and tears.”

(The musical “Fiddler on the Roof” Sheldon Harnick,- lyrics and Lewis B. Jerrold)

I must confess that for the many times I had sung that song I’d never looked at it experientially--- until then--- until now!

September 12, 2017 marked the 11th year of my dad’s passing and remembering that event coupled with some other cross roads and challenges in my life, up to and including the devastating storms named Harvey and Irma, which visited so much loss and destruction on our friends and neighbors, all gave me reason to pause and reflect on the time and the various seasons of my life and the impact it may or may not have made on the lives of my family members and friends.

The natural human tendency is to bury/forget the painful/bad experiences. But, for whatever its worth, I believe that these experiences along with the blissful/joyful moments that we encounter all help to shape us into the wonderful individuals we are. I like to think of them as being the warp and woof of the fabric of our lives. It is up to us then, to define and own the time and the seasons of our lives. What do we want to share? What do we want others to remember about us and the lives we’ve lived? It’s important to note that we get to write the narrative, therefore it’s time to record the moments verbally or in script so that we may share them with others before they are forgotten:

Bill Lane and Roger Nichols captured it quite well in this poem/song:----

“Good morning, yesterday
You wake up and time has slipped away.
And suddenly it's hard to find
The memories you left behind,
Remember, do you remember?

The laughter and the tears,
The shadows of misty yesteryears.
The good times and the bad you've seen
And all the others in between,
Remember, do you remember
The times of your life?

Reach out for the joy and the sorrow
Put them away in your mind,
The memories are time that you borrow
To spend when you get to tomorrow.

Here comes the setting sun,
The seasons are passing one by one.
So, gather moments while you may,
Collect the dreams you dream today
Remember, will you remember
The times of your life?”

(“The Times of Your Life” Bill Lane - lyrics and Roger Nichols)

Most of us are at that place in our lives where we could look forward and backward with clarity. By that I mean some of us have aging parents, or in laws, relatives or friends that we have to care for, along with the ongoing responsibilities to our perhaps now adult children, or young adult, teenager or preteen; as well as participating in the lives of our grandkids as we enjoy their hugs and sticky kisses.

For some of us that’s quite a span, but I can’t help but view these responsibilities as being an embodiment of the various seasons of our lives. Therefore, for all of us who have “promises to keep and miles to go before [we] sleep,” I say this is our season, now is the time to pass on lessons learned, to remember and share the time of our lives.