Monday, September 12, 2011
Circles and Cycles
I rarely share my thoughts on religion, never openly, and won't be sharing any conclusions I've drawn from years of research on the subject, here on my blog or anywhere else. Only a few close friends and family members, up until this point, are even aware that I struggle with my beliefs, but what I have decided I believe or have accepted that I don't believe is more personal to me than any other aspect of my life.
In my search for truths, however, one thing I've learned, that I believe is fundamental to human existence, is the factual scientific basis for the belief in cycles and the need to celebrate them. They are all around us in everything we do.
The cycles of the seasons never fail to surprise me. Having been reared in an area of the world where seasons are either non-existent or barely discernible, I now find myself noticing every little change in the weather and my surroundings. There are signs all around that signal the changing of the seasons and even the shifts in the weather from one part of a season to the next are becoming more familiar to me after ten years of living in the mountains. It's amusing, however, that the changes are always surprising, and if too extreme, viewed as an inconvenience rather than a thing to be celebrated. The first drop in temperature late in the summer that doesn't burn off by mid-morning is almost taken as an insult. When the leaves begin to change we are more accepting of the temperature difference, as if the chill in the air is justified and we can hold our tongues and let Mother Nature do her thing as long as we are rewarded with a showy display.
We like the autumn colors, the smell of wood fires that lingers in the air, fall decorations, and the promise of Thanksgiving Dinner at the end of the season, but if Old Man Winter rears his ugly head a little earlier than expected we gripe and groan some more as if it's a mistake when an ice storm hits before the month of December has arrived. Then if we don't get the picture perfect white Christmas we have always dreamed of, we are done with winter and whine until the tulips and daffodils begin popping up through the soil.
I am reminded of this and our reaction of shock when we step onto our sidewalks and driveways in fall to find a sheet of ice covering the pavement when I think of an incident that occurred a few autumns ago. We had driven down into the foothills for the day to a little town in Georgia. It was only early October, but there were snow flurries in the forecast for that night. We had been listening to the radio so we were aware of this fact, of course, but that didn't mean that all of nature had any inkling that foul weather was on its way. The roads were fine where we needed to cross Georgia's highest point, but when we climbed further north into the area that would lead us home the snow started. With no warning, some of the biggest flakes I'd ever seen came drifting out of the sky. We still had miles of winding, mountainous road to maneuver before we could turn onto the road that leads into our cove, so I was keeping just as close an eye on the asphalt ahead of us as my husband, who was driving. The boys had fallen asleep, so it was just the two of us staring in awe at such an early display of winter weather when all of a sudden what seemed to be a large oak leaf fluttered toward us in what felt like slow motion. Just as I was taking this in, it came closer and closer to our windshield until, "Splat!", it hit the glass in front of us. It wasn't a leaf at all but a disoriented bat. From what we could guess, the poor thing must have been so surprised by the sudden shower of large flakes that it lost its ability to navigate. Unfortunately, though we were the only ones on the road that night, this happened just as our van came tooling through its flight path.
I feel similarly disoriented when, on a warm spring or early summer day the temperature rises to an uncomfortable level along with an increase in humidity. Why are we so surprised when the changing seasons bring the weather we should be expecting? The funny thing is that when we complain about it, as if there is somebody to blame, we act as if someone somewhere has made a mistake. We live and die by the calendar, yet are always shocked when it does what it told us months in advance it was going to do.
Another circle that interests me is the circle of female family members. I have always been amazed by it, but have never felt it in my own life but for fleeting moments. The fact that whole generations of women can cleave to each other and feel a sisterhood among them is an amazing thing that I envy. I've always wanted it. I've needed it my whole life and I have indeed been there, I have experienced existing in this circle, but the members have been like sandpaper or thorny bushes to each other. "Come close, but don't get too close." "This is our circle, but don't get too comfortable here, we won't tolerate such signs of weakness." I have seen other circles of women from the outside and have never failed to be envious while wondering what it is that keeps them bonded and easily existing within their circle.
Only a few days ago, however, I found myself inside this circle, one that was formed by women I barely know. It wasn't my mother and sister and other female family members that made up the ring and it has haunted me ever since for that reason. I found myself within a literal circle of women. We were giving and taking, sharing, laughing, RELATING in a way I've never experienced. It was silly and fun, a meeting of moms who homeschool their children. Of course we had things in common, but after I left I realized why it seemed so out of the ordinary and almost magical. For a little while we were each others' mothers and sisters, treating each other the way we would like to be treated in a circle made up of those members. It may not ever be an experience such as this again, our meetings. In fact, I've never known a group of women to get along together for more than a few months, but that doesn't mean it can't happen. For the first time in my life I'm believing that it is possible. But really, I don't mind if it never goes off so beautifully again. The fact that the carefree evening left such a similar impression on all of us says something about the cycles and circles of life. I can't help thinking that that night of sharing and giggling was something all of us craved more than we could have begun to express and it amazes me that we all could have needed it at the same time. There is an unseen hand in everything, one that touches the leaves of summer with an imaginary paintbrush and one that warms hearts that are brought together. For me, there is no denying it.