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Taking note: Shifting seasons

A golden ray of the late afternoon sun was striking a tree with bright orange leaves at just the right angle. The leaves seemed to practically be ablaze. The illumination of the tree almost seemed to come from within.

It was a dazzling, warmly lit sight, providing a glorious contrast to the bright blue sky with wisps of purple clouds in the distance.

When I looked down, I saw a few red-orange leaves floating in the rainwater that had accumulated upon the surface of a bright blue outdoor table.

The rainwater upon the table was frozen that morning, encasing an autumn leaf that came down with the overnight rain.

As the day went on, the ice melted. The other leaves joined the formerly solitary, frozen leaf in the pool of water.

But soon, those leaves will be gone.

The table will be moved indoors to avoid the constant accumulation of rain, snow and ice.

The afternoon sun will be sinking toward the horizon earlier and earlier.

And it can be challenging to see the bright spots in the annual transition to colder, darker days.

However, the seasonal changes can be a welcome sign that time continues to march forward.

They can provide a striking contrast between the past, present and future.

And the seasons can firmly anchor our memories in time, providing a backdrop full of hints about when something happened.

Memories of wildflowers and rain showers can easily be traced back to springtime.

Tall snowbanks, icy roads surely mean winter. Or at least, some period between November and April.

Warm days spent swimming in Lake Superior point directly to July and August.

And when I lived in the desert, experiencing 350-plus days of sunshine annually, I was fascinated to realize it was harder to remember exactly when a given event occurred.

There were fewer direct clues to help me anchor these memories firmly in a given month or season.

Because while the desert is full of seasonal variations in weather, it tends to take a more subtle hand in showing these changes.

The many, many days of 85-degree weather and sun without a cloud in the sky can blend together.

“It was a hot and sunny day when this happened,” I’ll think to myself as I try to trace a given event to a month or season.

This lends little in the way of hints.

If I reflect more deeply, I can try to remember if there was any chance of rain, what flowers were in bloom, if it was so hot that I needed an oven mitt to open my car door.

Temperatures, humidity, light patterns, plants and animals can all give clues to the season.

But there’s no hint so obvious — at least to me –to the time of year as snow or dense thickets of autumnal trees.

And as much as I loved the constant warmth and sunshine, living in the desert made me realize I’d taken dramatic seasonal changes for granted.

I found myself missing the progression of seasons, the continual change and unpredictability inherent in the Upper Peninsula’s weather.

There’s a certain excitement that comes with so much change.

And it’s much easier to feel time move forward when conspicuous seasonal changes occur every few months.

A cool fall breeze is a reminder of all the time that has passed since summer, spring, winter and the previous fall.

And this is strangely critical, as the progression of the seasons can remind us we are alive and part of a living world.

It can remind us that change and life go hand-in-hand.

And even when we may not be enthusiastic about a particular change, we can be comforted to know that another change will be upon us soon enough.

Time will pass, more things will change.

And we might find ourselves embracing these patterns of change.

Because change is what anchors us, reminds us we are living, whole, dynamic and adaptable.

And when we take note of the constant cycle of change, we can also get a better sense of what anchors us in our world.

We can begin to better understand our place in time and space.

And we can embrace of cycles and patterns of change that make up our lives and keep connecting us to each other, season after season.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Cecilia Brown is city editor at The Mining Journal. She lives in Marquette and can be found hiking if the weather’s nice, or curled up with a book if not. Contact her at cbrown@miningjournal.net.

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