I have always disliked autumn.
“Don’t be fooled by all the beauty and colour on the trees!” I want to yell to the general public. “Look down at the pavement – all those black-spotted, tired-brown leaves: fallen, forgotten, squashed, forlorn. That is the real soul of autumn – a depressed mush of misery, leading only to the endless darkness of winter.”
(Because I’m a cheery sort).
As I’m housebound with severe ME and rarely leave the house, my body is ravenous for sun during winter. This year in Britain we’ve had a good summer that’s rolled into an Indian summer, and it’s been wonderful. I don’t want summer to end.
And yet….sleepy wasps have been speaking to me this year, reminding me of the value of autumn, and much else.
You see, in summer, wasps are a pain. They are busy, loud and aggressive, and even though I am allegedly a grown-up, I am still terrified of them. They plague your food and you are forever batting them away. The hotter it is, the more energy they have and the more they do. Wasps are intimidating, magnificent models of efficiency and productivity. And they’re LOUD about it.
If wasps were human, they’d be selling smug bestsellers called “The 7½ Secrets to a Successful Life.”
And the truth is, I wish all life were summer, and I were a busy wasp. I love being active, productive, accomplished. (I am also quite partial to being warm.) I wish for a vivacious, successful-yet-restful, memory-making, significant, fulfilling life – and subconsciously I expect that state to be continuous. Like the happy endings in movies.
Outside my house, the skies are blue and the sun is out, the trees cling on to their green leaves, and the only way you know it’s no longer summer is the biting wind.
You also know by the wasps. Poor wasps, they buzz confusedly, slowly, searching for food, wondering why it looks like summer, and yet the berries have gone. Their bodies have to work harder in the cool wind. I no longer have the heart to bat them away, because they drift away, dazed, by themselves. They are a shadow of their former summer selves.
In a word, the wasps are tired.
They need to hibernate. Even wasps need a rest.
Most of us westerners are so far removed from our agricultural roots that we have lost our connectedness with the rhythms of the earth. A summer season is fun, but it is not sustainable – not for wasps, not for humans, either.
We are built for variety, and paradoxically even those activities we most love can drain us if it is all we do. We are not robots, machines, productive automatons, and to treat ourselves or others in this way is dangerous and wrong. We are human, and we need the all the seasons.
We are not created to continue in a state of perpetual activity. If we do, we will break.
From sleepy wasps and seasons I hop straight to Ecclesiastes, in the Bible.
“There is a time for everything,” says the Philosopher in Ecclesiastes, “and a season for every activity under the heavens.” (Ecc 3:1 NIV).
We don’t do everything all at once: we need seasons in our own life, too.
There is, as the Philosopher says:
“…a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away…”(Ecc 3:4-6)
Sleepy wasps and Ecclesiastes tell me important truths about seasons of life. I love this lingering summer, but for the sake of the wasps and the trees, the winter must come. I need the periods of seemingly-wasted time for my body to heal. I need the fallow periods of not writing in order for the ideas to float back.
I’m reclaiming autumn as a time to slow down and look around. There are parts of us that need to hibernate so that new life can emerge.
So this is Ecclesiastes, paraphrased, for exhausted parents:
There is a time for giving sacrificially, and there is a time for calling on friends or family to hold the reins while you sleep and regain your sanity.
There is a time for absorbing yourself in your kids; there is a time for going on a date night and remembering who you are.
There is a time to care; there is a time to receive care.
Ecclesiastes for workers:
There is a time for innovation, facilitation, presentation, visualisation, experimentation, synchronisation, modification, incorporation, documentation, amalgamation; there is a time for actually using your lunch hour and walking in the park, breathing fresh air, thinking of nothing but squirrels and noisy birds. (To avoid hospitalisation).
There is a time for concentration; there is a time for contemplation.
There is a time to travail; there is a time to exhale.
Ecclesiastes for writers:
There is a time to write like you’re freewheeling; there is a time to write like you’re hammering your own fingers.
There is a time to create; there is a time to critique.
There is a time to push; there is a time to pause.
Ecclesiastes for the chronically ill:
There is a time to push your body or mind to do the thing you love; there is a time to close your eyes and lean into the pain and exhaustion.
There is a time to see people to keep yourself sane; there is a time for silence and rest to keep yourself healthy.
There is a time for progress; there is a time for rest.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecc 3:1
- What has autumn/fall been saying to you?
- If you were to paraphrase Ecclesiastes for yourself, what would it say?
[P.S. sorry for the sporadic blogging – had a bad attack of vertigo this month and still recovering. Bear with!]