On Waiting Patiently and Holding Hope: Life lessons from the Fall Equinox
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When I wrote last March’s post about the spring equinox, I was working towards something. I had an exuberant anticipation of the blossoming of a new endeavor in my life.
“Tonight (where I live, anyway- it may be early tomorrow where you live!) the earth will be aligned such that the sun crosses the celestial equator. The days will be, momentarily, equal in the length of light and darkness. The time of long nights and short days will phase, barely perceptibly, into the time of longer days and shorter nights. I will celebrate another transition in life, choosing this day to mark what I already see happening- the arrival of spring.
For me, a season of magic begins. Spring has an almost intoxicating pulse of life coursing through it. You can almost feel all of nature around you in a collective deep breath, as the race begins and the time of rest is over, for now. The excitement of renewal, rebirth, and re-invention of all our selves begins.
As a nature photographer, this season marks the start of the great thrill ride for me. One of my greatest joys is documenting new life from first bud to last bloom, observing in one living being the great race of life, all of its hurdles and triumphs, growth spurts and rests, milestones and mishaps.
Tonight I will take this opportunity to reflect on my own life, and ponder what this new spring season brings for me. I am in my own growth spurt right now, with new ideas budding and new aspirations emerging, while simultaneously other aspects of me fall away like the leaves in autumn. I feel as nature does, now. I am in transition. Tonight I will allow myself to feel the pulse of nature, tap into its collective breath, and try to catch some of that intoxicating rush of life-force that drives us forward in time, relentlessly reaching, growing, emerging.
I wish a Happy Spring Equinox to you all, a season of growth to bring to life and full bloom whatever dreams inspire your souls.”
Oh, such enthusiasm!
I had a dream inspiring my soul, and was joyously lost in the flow of transition. Spring was progressing with its intoxicating rush, and I felt on the edge of not just transition, but transformation.
Then as spring morphed dutifully into summer, that glorious season of “blooming” that followed turned out to be a season of chaos. The Waldo Canyon Wildfire happened here in Colorado Springs, and all my grand plans of blossoming something new into existence were thrown into a holding pattern. There was no time or emotional room for big plans, grand dreams, or transitioning, much less transforming. It was all I could do just to hold it together some days. I felt withered, exhausted, and stressed beyond belief.
It wasn’t just me or my fellow humans that withered. I watched all summer as the plants around here struggled, with the drought, with the smoke, with the intense heat. They never quite got their act together. Many lost branches or grew in awkward, stunted ways. Nothing ever looked or felt quite right or normal. Beyond the ugly, sad scars on our once-lovely mountains, everything looked wounded. Even my favorite flowers, that I look forward to seeing all year, seemed a mess as their blooming season approached in September.
The few tansy asters that I found seemed distressed and suffering.
I was sad. I would hike the trails at Garden of the Gods, looking along the places where they normally grow in wild, uninhibited abundance. I searched for their bushy, showy splashes of purple, only to find just a few scraggly stems with small, stunted flowers.
Sigh. It seemed a sad end to a sad summer. This season of “growth” was going to end with a whimper.
But several more weeks went by and a funny thing happened. All of a sudden, there were tansy asters!
Not scraggly twigs with scrawny petals, but rich, full blossoms seeming to smile at me with cheerful purple faces! As I wandered the trails day after day, I found more and more tansy asters beaming at me.
Their presence along the trail edges made me feel like a marathon runner getting high fives from people along the road. Every trail corner I turned, new purple, petal-faced friends cheered me on.
They hadn’t withered, after all. They’d simply waited.
Wow. What a life lesson from Mother Nature. I’ve blogged several times about my life-long struggle with learning patience. Pile this experience on top of all the other lessons like a cherry on a sundae.
You see, I’m squirrelly. A little ADHD, even. Impatient by nature, and a little beat up from a life with a bit more drama than I would have cared for. Patience and hope are two things I have been thoroughly tested on… over, and over, and over. I’m always praying to pass the test and stop repeating this life class.
This summer I, appropriately, slowed down. I put things on hold. I said “O.K.” to the notion of –gasp- waiting for something. I did it, but I didn’t like it. I fought it, struggled against it, and wound up a bit depressed over it.
Life had not conformed to my schedule of blooming. My glorious transition was put on hold. My triumphant transformation temporarily stifled. I felt like a runner who was waiting at the starting line, ready, coiled to spring forward, adrenaline rushing, only to have someone cancel the race. Ugh, how disorienting.
So, being the silly squirrel that I am, I became sad and out of sorts. My bushy-tailed glee waned in to tail-dragging “waiting” (eeew!). I was a little bitter and whiny about this summer, I’ll admit it. And almost a little self-righteous about it. After all, even the plants had given up hope this year. The lesson I saw in them was, “Oh, well. No hope for this year. Pack it in and call it quits till next blooming season.”
Until the tansy asters showed up.
Good grief, they hadn’t given up! They hadn’t whined once about the stress of ash on their leaves or smoke blocking the sunlight they needed to survive. They hunkered down, and waited. Patiently. Wisely. They took their time to regroup, get the nourishment they needed, and bloom- a little late- but bloom nonetheless. With gusto.
I found myself somewhat speechless this past week on the trails. Almost as if the tansy asters were giggling at me. “Silly human. Don’t you know that it’s alright to bloom late? You may not get exactly what you want in this life right out of the gate, but it will come! You may not get as far as you want when you like, but you will get there. You will bloom in your own time.”
And what has happened is something rather remarkable. The thing I thought I was doing last spring, the transition that I thought was happening, turned out to be something else. The delay turned out to be a good thing. A godsend. It was the sacred space that allowed my business partner and I to realize that we needed to pick a different fork in the road that we were travelling. Not stop, per se, just shift lanes and make a course correction that made our idea much, much better.
The struggle we had just endured had focused us. Patience and waiting turned out to be just what we needed. I had no reason to lose hope or lose sight or feel thwarted. I needed to be the easy-going tansy aster with the wisdom to let life unfold naturally, organically.
Fall is not normally my favorite season. It is rather obvious from my March equinox post that I am an enthusiastic fan of spring and summer! I am realizing during this fall equinox that fall is beautiful, too.
While I have always been intoxicated by the glory of twinkling golden aspen leaves in the Colorado fall, I was always nonetheless disappointed by autumn’s arrival.
It meant more waiting. Waiting for growth, waiting for blossoming, waiting with that ghastly patience that I so dread in life.
But this year is different. This year I am going to relish the season of dormancy. The season of rest. I am going to go about the quiet business of taking my business down the new fork in the road. I’ll quietly lay the ground work and be ready to burst forth its new expression of itself in the spring.
This year, I am willing to wait for the thing I want. This year, I am no longer frustrated by these things not coming in to my life fast enough, soon enough, or on my timetable. This year, I am content like the twinkling aspen leaves.
This fall equinox I spent the day with beloved people- my kids and two of my very best friends- up in the Colorado Mountains. I spent the day hiking and laughing, slowing down, and being at ease with the pace of life and the path I am on.
I can’t convey in a simple blog post how deeply this has affected me. And that’s O.K. I know in my roots and my heart that something new has taken hold. A transformation did occur, just not the one I was expecting. I grew. I matured.
I bloomed in to someone who can wait without losing hope.
I learned that some things in life are worth waiting for. That sometimes you have to choose the wrong path in order to arrive inexorably at the better path.
Wishing you all a beautiful fall equinox!