“Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.”
~~~ Yoko Ono
I thought I should start today’s post with this poem.
If you live in the Northern hemisphere, this is the season of the year when trees have nothing on their branches, nothing. But, of course, you then recollect that they were exhibiting some of the most spectacular colors a few months earlier, especially if you are experiencing the “Indian summers” of North America. But, then, trees give up all their leaves. And very quickly, they all look like they are dead for the next few months of winter. And usually, winds, rain, and cold accompany that shift from reverence to perseverance.
Indeed, a few years ago, as I was walking down the street after my morning coffee in Brooklyn, I noticed a little child pointing to the sky. As I looked up, I saw the wonderful golden colors of the leaves shining in the morning sun rays. Had I not paid attention, I would have just continued with my thoughts and missed the hidden message.
That message was straightforward, so simple that I realized that the most obvious is always in plain sight; like leaves on a tree, some habits must be abandoned sooner or later to make room for newer ones. That’s what I was able to understand back then. But it was still a faint hint of something not yet complete, the feeling you have when you start to have an unfinished thought. You know you are getting to something but don’t know what it’s about. So out of sheer frustration, you put it on the shelf, knowing full well that you’ll get back to it, but you don’t know when. And then you forget about it, sometimes for years.
Then some trigger brings it back to the surface of your awareness without knowing why. That happened a few years later. Back then, I was watching the whole of Beijing, China, from the top of the Drumtower in the Northern part of the large square that defines the core of the ancient city. It was a beautiful sight, and the sky was blue on that beautiful day of Spring. I walked outside to the balcony surrounding the whole tower and noticed fascinating golden plates with explanations describing the cycle of seasons – the entire Drumtower is about time and its passing.
And then, I realized that seasons in Chinese culture don’t align with what we are used to in the West. After reading these descriptions on a golden plate, I realized that the end of January and the beginning of February is when Spring starts in Chinese culture. Of course, you may argue that this does not make sense since the surrounding cold and bitter frosts of February are not really a clear indication of the start of Spring. Yet, if you stop and think about it, it’s logical. Indeed, what matters is when the shift of temperatures actually starts, even if our senses do not perceive that infinitesimal change.
Indeed, the end of January and the start of February are when temperatures stop getting colder. Of course, it’s still cold, but it does not get much colder than it already is. Do you see how subtle it is?
In fact, temperatures are stabilizing and might even get slightly warmer, not by a lot, just a fraction. But that’s enough to signal to seeds buried in the ground, the kind of warning that the worse of the bitter cold is behind. That imperceptible shift remains the marker, the milestone Chinese culture uses to indicate that Spring is on the way. A pointer to the change from perseverance to innocence.
All of this remains crucial for us humans who live amid this nature. We should pay attention to these lessons while going through these enormous transitions on the planet. There is a lot to learn, and we’ll get to that in the coming days.