The sun is shining today. Everyone is giddy because the official start of spring is about two weeks away. Daylight savings time starts Sunday. Of course snow will return several more times before spring arrives–seasons do not start on one day and end on another. Summer transitions to fall and winter transitions to spring; each transition is a mini season of its own.
Since moving to Wyoming I am more aware and appreciative of the transitions. I look forward to early spring, spring, and late spring, each with its own rituals. Likewise with early summer, summer and late summer, followed by early fall, Indian summer, late fall. Ditto for winter. Life is on the move, the world is in motion: birds fly south or north, elk move up or down the mountains, bear and other hibernators wake up or bed down. Hail falls or early snow lays down a light frosting. Garden plants sprout or yield their final fruits. My crab apple tree blooms a brilliant pink or drops a cascade of small bitter fruit. Humans move too, walking in the late winter sun or raking up autumn leaves. Every sense is engaged during the transition of seasons. We hear the kids outdoors, smell the fresh greenery, and touch the wiry new calf. We taste fresh asparagus and see the elegant Sandhill Cranes flying overhead.
Yet people also pause during season transitions. In the early summer before temperatures soar, we linger outdoors and in the autumn before the temperatures sink, we look at the golden trees. We notice nature for a moment as she fusses in preparation for whatever comes next. In the middle of a season we slow down and hunker down indoors: it’s too hot or too cold. The wind is too strong or hot air is stifling.
Is this recognition of transitional seasons a gift of age? I do not know for certain, but seeing the hints and signs–the subtle shifts in nature–requires slowing down. It also requires that we stop seeing Christmas, Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving as the markers of seasonal change. Those are man made transitions and merely opportunities for marking time in frantic and materialistic ways. At some point in life, human striving takes a back seat to Mother Nature’s own seasonal displays.
This past Christmas was like many other days–I worked the night before and slept in. My son and I opened a few presents and then managed to eat our way through the rest of the day. The real celebration started the next day, when we went winter camping on the shores of a small lake. The pink sunrise was reflected by the lake ice, turning the whole world a rosy red. We hovered around a campfire looking at the stars and drinking hot chocolate. We hiked through a frozen canyon and around tall rock formations that defy gravity. Officially we were in winter, but a few black-green weeds stuck through the patchy snow, telling me that we were still transitioning to deep winter just then.
Today the sun shines, but snow arrives in a few days, probably a wet, heavy, late winter offering compared to our deep winter powder that makes the west a ski destination. Time to get outside and find more signs of the winter-to-spring transition. I have already kicked Tango outside, into the back yard but he wants nothing to do with this transition and the muddy earth. Where are those muck boots that I flung aside last summer?