Four Seasons

Much has been written about the four seasons of our lives and of nature. Hence, even the calendar is based upon the stars and seasons: Autumnal Equinox, Winter Solstice, Vernal Equinox & Summer Solstice. I list these as they come at this time, and since summer is officially over (at least in the northern hemisphere) we enter the season of Autumn or Fall. Our lives correlate to nature’s seasons rather well.

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Actually, all life begins in the spring season when we are conceived, born and we begin our early years of development. I realize that some creatures begin their lives in different seasons, but I am basing my dialog on human beings. At this stage of the cycle of life we are filled with wonderment and often joy. I know, there are so many children whose lives appear to be anything but joyful. However, I have seen children in slums who find joy in the most dire circumstances. They inspire me.

Then comes Summer which welcomes the developing years of one’s life. This season is filled with activity, learning, and blessings. The later part of Summer involves adolescence and the challenges and excitement which accompany this season of life. Funny, how so many of us reflect upon this season most fondly as we grow older. Based on experience, please enjoy, but be careful as risks are often taken without any thought of danger…I am a living example!

Autumn comes next as these are the middle-aged years of one’s life. I now have two grandchildren which “knock my socks off” when I get to spend time with them. This is a joy-filled, and a reflective season, and is usually accompanied by many memories of raising our children. I believe it to be my most favored season …especially because I relate to nature so closely and the change of this season is so dramatic.

Winter follows and we experience the cleansing of new fallen snow and arctic blasts of air which cleanse the mind and spirit. It is also when we realize that this is the last season and we best make the most of it. Family and friends are most important during this time. Far too often we succumb to physical and mental illnesses which cause alarm among all who care. However, we were never promised an eternal life while enveloped in these bodies of flesh and bones.

This photograph was taken a few days ago and reflects nature’s changing personality during the season from Summer to Fall. I captured this image with my cell phone camera and admit it is nothing spectacular. Yet, I like it because it reveals an authentic representation of our reality, and of our seasons. So, whatever season of life you find yourself in, I encourage you to stop and enjoy it. As is so often stated, “Time flies”. There are no do-overs in life, only restarts!

Coming of Age

The term Coming of Age is roughly translated to mean the period when a youth transitions into an adult. Ages vary from culture to culture, but the adolescent years are generally considered to be in-sync with this term. Sometimes this period is marked by special ceremonies which celebrate this passage from childhood to adulthood. However it is defined (or wherever) there is a universal sense about this period in one’s life. In America, many adults recall this season with fondness. Like the carnival sign below, very often our youth is remembered as a magic carpet ride, full of fun, fun, fun and zero difficulties or troublesome issues. That’s not exactly how I recall my youth, although there were plenty of fun times and the occasional magic.

The other morning – without any forethought – I began to think about this term which, in turn, took me back to my childhood, through my teen years and into the early adult years. Funny how the mind works sometimes because I can’t figure out what triggered this avalanche of mental images. Although this piece may seem like a vain trip down nostalgia’s road, this is not what I want to explore or present. Rather, I desire to probe the era where so much change occurred and I developed so many of my habits, convictions, perceptions and responses to life’s challenges. Perhaps some of my examples may resonate with you.

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My childhood years were pretty wonderful with few cares in my world. The only serious issues during this period were my asthma which put me in the hospital on a pretty consistent basis, and my mom’s second divorce. Life for me and my family wasn’t always easy, especially as we entered our second decade of living, and there were real hardships, and even dysfunction for a while, but mostly the memories are positive, and I count my blessings. Memories are powerful and can transform my mood in either direction. When the bad ones pop up, I strive to reject them so they won’t haunt me. When the good ones sprout I grab onto them and relish their soothing effect on my soul. Memories, moods and behavior are inseparably linked.

Enter adolescence with the exuberance and the baggage that comes with it. These are the years that most think about when a child develops into a young adult. Do you remember? Some days I would be on top of the world-I could hardly stand how great I felt- and other days I was so uncertain of myself and growing up that I barely coped. Mood swings, the blues, jumpin’ for joy at times, and periods of serious contemplation attended these lean years of growing up. Life seemed either superbly great or fearfully awful. Certainly there were many mundane days, but life as an adolescent seemed like an uncertain adventure most of the time.

Those were the days of close friendships and enemies; independence and peer pressure; standing tall and compromising; achieving and failing; caution and recklessness; confidence and self-doubting; dares and stupid follow-throughs; puberty, attractions, dating and lots of questions; first loves, first jobs, heartaches and disappointments; courage and fear; learning and repeating the same mistakes; muscle cars and fist fights; rock-n-roll and solitude; learning and ignoring; war and peace; politics-good and bad; Wide World of Sports and soap operas; bell bottoms, mini-skirts and ugly glasses; drugs and the war on drugs; family mealtimes and TV dinners; regular visits to the moon and ballistic missiles; peace rallies and riots; drag racing and getting caught; hanging out and clicks; drive-in movies and drinking. Yes, we had it all during my coming of age years, and I probably just touched the surface.

My later teen years morphed into the early twenties and shared some of the same dynamics as adolescence, but not nearly as extreme. Maturity began to overcome the child in me and what I learned actually made sense. I began to see the world in a different light and comprehended the vastness of the universe and complexities of life. There were many wonderful moments during these years, and there were just as many tough ones, but they all contributed to my development into the person I am today. During this period of my life I was similar to most other young persons, in that I thought I knew more than most adults-including my parents. You can laugh now! Time and the School of Hard Knocks have taught me the folly of such thinking.

It has occurred to me that our entire lives are really coming of age times. As we mature we become wiser, thereby reducing the mistakes, failures and mishaps. Obviously, we are never free of these negatives and their consequences. On the flip side, the positives and their consequences accompany us, as well. Each day…each year produces new experiences and sensations; some feel completely fresh and alive while others seem routine and pedestrian. Some are short-lived and others stretch-out for what seems to be too long. Regardless, we are still coming of age in the same way as when we experienced the transition from adolescence to adulthood. I believe the difference is one of perspective: the traditional concept is more or less age-based, while our current transitions are reflective-based. By that, I mean we transition from one level of understanding to another through the process of evaluating the past, present and future. We have a lifetime of experience and learning to fall back on. As we are constantly being presented with new and challenging concepts and situations, we can respond with increasing assurance.

What was once a mystery usually turns out to be a truth or a lie. Yet, some ambiguity remains in our lives because we live in a world with ever-changing dynamics. We are finite creatures with limitations which restrict our full understanding about everything we encounter. This frustrates many…the not knowing. That is not to say I turn my back on education; by no means! For each new day we probe deeper and deeper into the unknown, we discover abundant and new facts which challenge and change us. This is a wonderful thing about being human. However, we must not deceive ourselves into thinking we can know ‘it ‘ all…we will always be left wanting.

For me, the only constant is found in a God who was and is and always will be the same. This is my reality. I recognize it is not everyone’s. I find security in this truth, for no matter how much chaos surrounds me, I know God doesn’t panic or wring His hands wondering what will happen next. He has it all figured out for He is sovereign over all creation. Amazingly, all He asks of me is to simply trust Him. And, I do. Hopefully, you do, too. The ultimate coming of age will occur when I see His glorious face in the light of eternity.

What Was He Thinking ?

Dad 1945Dad 1949I was clueless. My dad wanted to take me to his barber on my sixteenth birthday. I was petrified of what the end result would look like!

I came of age in the early seventies, and grew up with my mom, two sisters, two dogs and an ever-changing number of cats. All but one life form in our house was male, plus me. However, our male dog bonded with my mom rather than the only other male in the house. Oh well.

My mom was rather progressive and liked my hair long while my dad was a bit more old-fashioned (WWII veteran, but not over-the-top). The oddity about his request was simple…I never went to the barber with my dad since we didn’t live together and he let me take care of my haircuts and clothing choices.

I protested to my mom that dad’s request was strange and that I was a candidate for a buzz. She assured me that he simply wanted to be more involved in my life which scared me at the time. Sure, I wanted to spend time with my father, but not at his barber’s shop!

Because I couldn’t get my mom to help me out of the situation, and I couldn’t give my dad a good reason not to go with him, I acquiesced. From that moment until I sat in the barber’s chair a week later, I fretted about the outcome. Worry never helps, though. I even discussed this with my best friend, but he was no help. Rather, he thought the whole thing was funny. That’s what good friends do…they laugh at stuff that’s funny to them, but menacing to you and me. Interesting how time changes our perspective about the humor in such experiences.

The moment arrived. Dad and I walked into his local barber’s shop-a throwback from the 1940s. I sat down with men three times my age as I watched the stealthy barber practice his trade. Before I was ready, he called me to his chair. I was surprised when he asked me what type of haircut I wanted. I assumed my father told him to whack the bushy pile of hair off my scalp, but he hadn’t. I was relieved, but still skeptical.

Then the most bizarre moment occurred. After being leaned back in the hydraulic chair, the barber began to lather my face with shaving cream! I barely had peach fuzz so I knew I didn’t need a shave. But, a shave with a straight razor is what I got, plus a pretty good haircut, too. I looked at my dad, and he just smiled. We didn’t really talk about the shave. He just paid the bill and we walked out of that shop side-by-side, father and son sharing a moment that probably meant more to dad than to me (at least at that moment).

Actually, I was aware of what my father had done for me, but it still took time for the impact to really sink in. To be honest, I didn’t think of my dad as being the type to create a sentimental experience. He was a wonderful man, and a good father, but not one to get too intimate with his children. A lot of men were like that in his generation; loving, but a bit formal.

It is rather amazing that his “gift” has had  such an impact on my impression of my father. You see, what he did was give me a ‘rite of passage’ so-to-speak, from a teenager into early adulthood. This was my father’s way of saying, “Your growing up, son, and I know it. In fact, I want to be a part of this transition from child to man”. What he said to me the most, without speaking a word, was this… I love you. Period.

I miss my dad. He died in 1984. My children barely knew him. Fortunately, my wife remembers him well. What really counts is that I knew him, and the love that he had for me. What a tremendous truth to know and experience. So many don’t have this pleasure. I never take it for granted.

Make a memory. Happy New Year.