Changing Seasons

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!

Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;

Conspiring with him how to load and bless

With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;

To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees

And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;

To swell the gourd and plump the hazel shells

With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,

And still more, later flowers for the bees,

Until they think warm days will never cease,

For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

I love autumn. I love the colours, the misty valleys, the crisp  mornings and cosy evenings, the opportunity to remember just how snuggly that sweater is. I enjoy the flavours of spice and thick chunks of root vegetables, often considered too ‘heavy’ for the summer. Having been brought up in an agricultural community, harvest festivals have a special place in my heart – so much so that ‘harvest’ is one of very few words I still pronounce with a south-western accent after nearly twenty-five years in Yorkshire. I am excited by the freshness of the the new academic years and the new phase of life it signals for so many around me.

And, as is reflected in Keats’ poem, the coming of autumn is the end of something else. The colours are changing as leaves die, the cosy evenings indicate shorter days, the appearance of pumpkins and spice signals the fading into the background of strawberries. Changing seasons bring new delights but also demonstrate that so many of these delights are transitory.

One of the cornerstones of personal effectiveness is resilience – the ability to handle change and thrive in changing circumstances. It is an enviable skill to be able to hold lightly the elements of our lives which are subject to change; to cherish the things and experiences which bring us joy and fulfilment but not to cling to them in a way which means we are rendered helpless when they pass from us, devastated by their loss.

This is on my mind a good deal at the moment as I am aware of significant changes underway in my life and in the lives of people I am close to. It is so easy to feel robbed when something central to our routine changes, particularly when we have had little influence over that change. When summer fades into autumn we may feel sad at the cooling temperatures or the shorter days, but we know that we will experience summer again next year. However, when our personal or professional circumstances change, there is no guarantee our lives will ever be the same.

In order to be truly resilient in changing circumstances, the key (it seems to me) is to rest in – and invest in – the parts of our lives that are permanent. Our values, our qualities, our knowledge and for many of us, our faith. By establishing for ourselves – and these things will be individual – a security zone of the aspects of ourselves and our lives which will not be altered by circumstance, we are able to manage and even enjoy the changes around us. We can bid a fond farewell to the activities and locations we have enjoyed whilst embracing the new opportunities to come.

So, what are your ‘constants’?

How can you invest more in them?

Will that allow you to hold on less tightly to the transitory circumstances around you?

 

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?

Think not of them, thou hast thy music too –

While barréd clouds bloom the soft-dying day

And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;

Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn 

Among the river sallows, borne aloft

Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;

And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;

Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft

The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;

And gathering swallows twitter in the skies. 

John Keats, To Autumn

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