Fall has come to the park. The trees haven’t fully turned. The rains haven’t started in earnest. But a chill is in the air, the light has changed, and there’s a stillness about the place.
As I walk the circular path around the lake, fewer people are about; and the ducks, who just a few days ago were abundant and raucous, have also largely gone. Many of those that remain huddle in the grass or float on the still water with their head tucked into their feathers.
I can feel subtle shifts within me, too. I haven’t buried my head in my sleeve, but I feel the hum of energy deeper in my bones and organs, away from the surface and swirl of activity.
My routines are also changing. Cycling to work, I’m now riding in darkness the entire way. I’ve added arm and leg warmers and a light jacket, and have switched to full-finger gloves. In a few weeks, I’ll be leaving the house 30 minutes earlier so that I can avoid riding home in complete darkness as well. I’ll be layering on a hooded baselayer, an insulated jacket, and shoe covers, and frequently wearing a rain shell and rain pants.
When my wife and I moved to the Pacific Northwest 32 years ago, some of our friends questioned why we would leave Southern California. Exchanging a climate that varies from warm and sunny to cool and sunny, for one that includes 150 days of rain each year, occasional snow, and what are known locally as “sunbreaks,” seemed incomprehensible to them.
But I prefer the weather here. More particularly, I enjoy the change of seasons. They exert an irresistible force, drawing me into their circular rotation, altering my energy, changing my mood, and reminding me that I’m not an isolated entity. I’m part of a larger, living whole. And the movements of this circular dance that we perform are particularly influential in the transitional cusps between the seasons, like today.
When I’m mindful of this dance, I call it living in the round. Of course, the change isn’t always welcomed with open arms. Sometimes, a sense of melancholy comes when witnessing one season depart or another approach. But if, instead of clinging to what I’ve grown accustomed to I accept the movement and embrace the dance, then magic can occur.
Then, riding my bike in the dark in the rain in temperatures just above freezing isn’t a trial, it’s a meditation and a gift (especially if I don’t run over a nail or a piece of glass along the way). I don’t pretend to be able to sustain that level of mindfulness every day. Living in the round becomes something of a meandering curve. And that’s what’s particularly helpful and healing about the change of seasons. It’s a gradual wake-up buzzer reminding me to be present—not just to my own stuff, but to the whole of which I am a small part.
We are a community, a circle, of roundish beings, living on a round planet that wobbles a bit on its axis, but still circles its sun that wheels around its galaxy. The repetition and regeneration inherent in those actions has a kind of grace. Between our stumbles and pauses, we dance.