“To every thing turn, turn, turn, there is a season turn, turn, turn . . .”
The Beauty of Autumn
These words – originally from Ecclesiastes, made into a song by Pete Seeger, and as I first heard them sung in 1965 by The Byrds – are beginning to resonate for me more deeply than ever before. At almost 65, I am now well into the Equinox of my life. I am beginning to look back at what I’ve accomplished, what I think it means, and how I wish to apply what I’ve learned to what remains of my time on this planet.
Lest you think I’m being melancholy, I’m not . . . though I will admit to occasionally feeling as though time has slipped by far too fast. However, I have a trick I use to deal with that and I’ve been doing it so long I really don’t think about it much any more.
I’m of the opinion the feeling that time has slipped by far too fast is a low-level form of self-pity. That trick I mentioned is something I used to do many years ago when I sensed I was feeling sorry for myself. I would pick a day, perhaps six months or a year ago, and try to recreate all the things I had done or experienced in the intervening time. I never made it to “today” because I always got bored from “reliving” all those things I had already done. Nowadays, I don’t even have to go through the exercise. I only need to remind myself of its efficacy.
Maybe it is because I’ve had a pretty interesting life, full of wonder . . . and not a little strangeness as well . . . but I’d like to think just about everyone experiences a great deal of variety and special things in their life, if only they could (or would) take the time to appreciate them. Unfortunately, too many of us dwell on the past and obsess over the future, ensuring we are incapable of simply enjoying today.
I often make reference to a book by Alan Watts, “The Wisdom of Insecurity”. I do this because its message is inordinately precious and timeless. It has done for me what I suppose many turn to the Bible for; given me strength and succor when I’ve needed it most. The first time I read it was when I was a young man and a woman I was deeply in love with cast me aside after several months of an intense relationship. Back then I was not in great control of my emotions and was capable of spectacular heights and abysmal depths of feeling. By the time I finished the book I was at peace and had learned the value of letting go; a powerful lesson which has remained with me all these years.
The last time I read it was a couple of years ago while awaiting surgery to remove a Melanoma from my lower back; uncertain if it had spread and not knowing if the time remaining with my wife and two young children would be short. Though at first I cried for what it might mean to my family, especially my girls, both of whom had already lost two fathers (biological and foster), it helped me find the strength to go very quickly to acceptance, greatly minimizing denial and depression, and skipping anger and bargaining entirely.
I am also reminded of these words from the Frank Sinatra version of “It was a very good year”:
“But now the days grow short, I’m in the autumn of the year
And now I think of my life as vintage wine from fine old kegs
From the brim to the dregs, and it poured sweet and clear
It was a very good year.”
Yes, it is the Autumn of my life, but the season is a wonderful one, full of color and change. It’s also a season of harvest and of festivals celebrating the fruit of ones labors. For me, I’m beginning to use it as a time to take stock of all I’ve experienced and accomplished.
Because my wife and I adopted two young girls, the oldest when I was 55 years old, I am in no position to sit back and allow myself to ferment (though I still enjoy various grains in such a state), as I might have done in retirement were it not for my girls. I still have an absolutely wonderful life and am looking forward to at least a couple more decades of activity, learning, and experiencing this incredible journey I feel so fortunate to be on. If you’re willing, I will share my harvest with you and I hope you will see fit to share a bit with me as well. Thanks for reading.