I really, really like Ecclesiastes. It gets sort of a bum rap as a dismally depressing book, but it isn’t. Actually, I think there’s a lot of hope in Ecclesiastes. Honest, open-eyed hope. (Then, I’m not exactly known for my overly-cheery taste in music and movies, so maybe it’s partly a personality thing.)
There’s also a strong sense of life-seasons in Ecclesiastes. You know, a time for everything, and all that. Turn! Turn! Turn!
I think seasons are important. I grew up (and am currently living) in the Midwest, where we have four pretty discernable ecological seasons. I don’t have a favorite. I love the anticipation of living through one season and into the next. We’re on the edge of winter right now, and I’m giddy over snowfalls and skating and root vegetables.
Before too long, I’ll be going stir crazy, tired of shoveling, tired of trying to jog on icy sidewalks, tired of coats and boots. I’ll be longing for the smell of wet earth, for the first green shoots of new growth, for asparagus. And then it’ll be on to anticipating the next season, and the next, until I come full circle.
Ecological seasons are, for me, bound up with other life seasons. Autumn means the excitement of new beginnings. This edging toward winter marks a ramping up in scholastic intensity— over the next week, I’ll be taking a final exam, writing two seminar papers, and grading my students’ final projects (and finishing up their next-to-final projects, but never mind that). The ends of semesters are crazytown.
This part of the year is colored with a yearning toward the semester’s end that sits alongside the deeper, gut-level yearning toward the Advent of Christ. Christmas in its joyous celebration is joyous, too, in having completed another semester.
The academic-liturgical rhythm doesn’t work out quite so neatly in the spring—the semester’s generally still going strong when Easter comes—but Ash Wednesday tends to fall in that messy, dark, winter-clinging-on part of the season, while even an early Easter is late enough to believe that the warmth and light of late spring will come. Pentecost comes in tornado season, and the long days of post-Pentecost Ordinary Time start to run into one another like day-after-summer-day.
I’ve lived almost exclusively in northern-hemisphere, temperate-climate seasons. I’ve been on an academic schedule over half my life, and on a semester-ends-are-crazy schedule at least since starting college, and probably to some extent in high school. I’ve been attending highly liturgical churches since early in college. All these seasons have become familiar to me, habitual. They’ve worked their way into my bones.
I’m thankful for seasons, even the ones that involve sacrificing sleep, or waking up in the pitch-black, or taking a hard look at the dark places in my life. Without the dark seasons, the hard seasons, the preparatory seasons, I wouldn’t really be able to inhabit the light and joyous seasons. Without work, I wouldn’t understand rest. Without longing, I wouldn’t know fulfillment.
So I really like this time of year, a fast season filled with work, tension, darkening days, a longing for rest, anticipation of the first big snow. My life-seasons converge in a time that echoes and mirrors and resounds with the Advents before, and yet offers something fresh and new and different every year.
What are seasons like for you? What sorts of seasons are in your bones? How do you mark the passing of time?