Tuesday, October 23, 2012

On Seasons

Lately I keep finding a line from Emily Dickinson running through my head:

That it will never come again 
Is what makes life so sweet.

While the rest of the poem these lines open may not be quite along my line of thinking -- nor do I even claim to understand it, by the way -- these lines must wring every mother's heart a little bit.  Oh, these fleeting moments.  I know it's clichĂ© to say, "It goes by so quickly," but I suppose everyone says it because it's so true.  The days may be long, but the weeks, and even the months, seem to fly by.  And the moments, these moments that will never come again, are oh-so-sweet.

At the same time, paradoxically, I often think it is the very things that do come again that make life sweet.  The returning seasons, the springs and summers, the Lents and the Easters, the Thanksgivings and Christmases, and each New Year.  The markers of time that we anticipate year after year.

There's something important about having seasons in our lives, isn't there?

Can you imagine if life were just one long, straight road, stretching before us endlessly?  Rather than a repeating cycle of seasons within years?  Our sense of seasons is universal to humanity: the new year is foundational as we begin the cycle again.  It seems to be utterly central to human life, an idea that spans history and crosses cultures, and yet I find the centrality of it difficult to define or explain.

We celebrate every important event in human history yearly, and we add our own small celebrations of birthdays, baptisms, or marriages to the large-scale celebrations of all of humanity.  It's important that we remember these events; tradition connects us to our collective past.

{Nathan told me once that he read a Russian orthodox theologian define tradition as "that part of our past which connects us to our future.}

We need seasons in our lives.  The church knows this, and weaves beautiful repetition into the seasons of each liturgical year as we remember, year after year, the story of salvation.

The traditions of these repeated seasons are so meaningful, and I've been pondering how to weave these patterns of tradition, both large and small, into my daughter's life.  On a large scale, what will our Advents, our Christmases, our Lents and our Easters look like in this family?  How will we slow down our daily lives to pause and to wonder at Christ's coming?

How will we teach our daughter penitence?  What will our established family traditions be at each season of the year, and for all the meaningful moments, large and small, we pause to remember or celebrate?

I think, though, that a smaller-scale sense of rhythm in life is just as important to a child.  Not only our years, but also our days have patterns and traditions.  Right now, perhaps the ways I show these rhythms to Nell are mostly silly: diaper changes are accompanied by The Diaper Change Song I made up.  Baths feature Bilbo Baggins' Bath Song - sung with great drama, perhaps a ritardando here or there - to a little tune I made up (so you know it's good, naturally).  Nap times and bed times have a song of their own, and before bed comes a book (she likes books these days!), nursing, snuggling.

Little daily traditions, like Bath Songs and Diaper Songs to go along with the rhythm and pattern of our days at home.  Bigger weekly occasions, like pizza night, to look forward to each week.  And yearly traditions, because it's important that the seasons be enjoyed, and more important still that the story of the people of God be told and be remembered.  As we observe traditions both large and small, we hope to manifest in our daughter's life that the events we remember continue to be just as true and beautiful today as they have been in years past, and that they will be true and beautiful for years to come.  And that even the small daily things -- even chores and diaper changes! -- have a rhythm and a beauty and an orderliness of their own.

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