One of my favorite calendars comes as a set of four pages that are three feet long by 12” high.  At the top are pictures of the rising constellations, and it also depicts the phases of the moon and sun.  On the land and underground, it depicts seasons of bird and animal migrations, hibernations, gestations, and the time for rearing the next generation. It also shows growing and harvest seasons for various plants. Everything rises and falls in its own season, its own good time.  

Something like this happens for us too.  All of the world’s religious traditions mark the turning seasons and pairs them with liturgical seasons as a way to help humans make meaning as we pass through time.  When we were agrarian, we would plant and tend various crops, then harvest and give thanks for the abundance. Or we would hold on through bad harvests, sure that the cycle would begin again in a few months; all we had to do was hang on until it was time to plant again.  And when we learned these lessons from nature, it helped us understand and find sacred meaning when similar things happened in our lives.  When we do these things it helps us claim our joy and make sense of our suffering.   

The pandemic has canceled so many of our in-person social celebrations: graduations, weddings, and even funerals, and also the regular music and arts festivals that we look forward to each in their own season. Even sports have their own seasons (basketball, soccer, baseball, football, hockey) and these games too are a way that we mark the passing of time and know what season we’re in. These events also bring us into contact with other people, and those encounters can help to fill our lives with meaning. But now, not only are we missing all the events themselves, but also the nearness of other people, and on top of that, we’re also missing the meaning we make out of our experience of being together.   

Our modern life tempts us to believe that if we just have the correct thought/ belief/ diet/ exercise / meditation program/ wellness products / home/ spouse/ career / children/ social media platforms, our life will be in control and we’ll be just fine.  And that’s just not true. While it’s good to take care of our self, all the broccoli in the world can’t stop the arrival of the unexpected.   

Paying attention to the seasons of our lives can help us and support us as we learn to “harvest meaning” from whatever unexpected events arrive. This is good when days are ordinary. It’s especially helpful when things happen to us in a season we might not have expected. Children can get serious illnesses or have terrible accidents; elders sometimes do fall head over heels in love. This is “not how life is supposed to happen,” and yet, it does.  

Pandemics also come around from time to time, disrupt everything, and somehow we survive.  Art and music, conversations, good food, books, and friends, the beauty of a garden, the mysteries of science, and the wisdom of the people who’ve come before us all help us make it through. And so does the passage of time, as we notice the quality of light thicken as the days grow shorter and the nights cooler, as the songs of circadas give way to the music of crickets, and we move through it all with a rhythm and pattern of our very own making.