Let’s face it; summer is ending. The sun is setting earlier, the nights are getting cooler. We’re seeing summer’s end clearance events, Back-to-School shopping ads, vacation bucket lists, and even Halloween candy on the shelves! Wherever I go, there are many reminders that our days of fun and relaxation are numbered.
Or, are they? Is it true that we can only have recreation and relaxation in the summer? I think not. I’d like to think we have a choice in determining how much we are going to get swept up into the tidal wave of panic that is induced by these messages, both obvious and covert. I admit, the pressure can be enough to make one dream of moving onto a houseboat and leaving behind such demands! But, we are entering September. The fall will come whether we like it or not. As with most things in life, this will bring a mix of positive and negative experiences that come along with the transition into a new season. Even if you don’t have kids, you’ll likely be affected by changes in the traffic patterns, longer-than-usual lines at the stores, and sudden influx of college students (not to mention the moving trucks!). For people with mental health concerns, the change in seasons can be a signal for a change in symptoms and ways of coping. However, people are resilient and adaptive to the environment.
I used to dread the end of summer. I grew up spending as much time as possible outside, from playing with friends to life guarding at the local beach. The fall meant it would soon be winter, a time of darkness and being cooped up inside for the next three to five months! I couldn’t enjoy September, October, and November because of the impending doom I anticipated.
But sometime in the last decade, I made a conscious decision to allow the seasons to change –not that I was ever consulted on the matter. What it meant was giving thanks for the warm days of swimming, gardening, and late-evening walks. Giving thanks while grieving the loss, like at the end of a visit with a far-off old friend. Allowing the seasons to change also meant welcoming new opportunities. Only in September and October can you go apple picking. Only in October can you admire the patchwork quilt of colorful trees on the hills along the highway. Only on those cold days and nights can you experience the brisk air that reminds us we’re alive.
I think that allowing the seasons to change is a form of mindfulness. “Live each season as it passes,” said Thoreau. “Breathe the air, Drink the drink, taste the fruit…” Let’s see if we can do just that; let’s see if we can be mindful of the good things we’ve experienced this summer as well as what each new season has to offer. Let us be patient with ourselves and with each other as we adjust to going back to school, to lessening daylight, to sweaters and coats that have had their chance to rest before resuming their intended purpose. This is a time of transition; it can still be a time of recreation, in a new sense.