As we head into the fall season with cooler days, and sunset coming noticeably earlier each night, I feel inspired to do a couple things. First, I want to firmly set into my body-feeling-memory, the warm images and sensations of spring and summer, to help carry me through the long, cold, amazingly beautiful northeast Iowa winter. Next, I want to remember to notice what happens as the seasons change once again in this place I call home, to see what I can learn about place and self.
Warm memories. For several days in the middle of May, I had to take a nap each afternoon, because of the weather and the trees. There is a crab apple tree right outside my bedroom window that was in full bloom. The most gentle, warm breezes were coming through the window, carrying the sweet scent of the apple blossoms. The combination was like an intoxicating spell, and I would lie down on my bed, basking in the serenity of the senses, and fall asleep. Everything had suddenly come out in full bloom—dandelions covered the lawn, wildflowers carpeted the woods, and the air became soft and warm and filled with these fragrances.
Several days into this bliss of spring, after the flowers had been blooming on the trees for a few days, and after I had been napping daily in these sweet airs, I went outside for a walk and my children's grandmother casually said to me, "Remind the kids to look at the blossoms on that tree before they get blown away by the storm tonight." With her grandma-wise words, a revelation entered my awareness as inescapably as the next perfumed breeze met my in-breath. I realized that I knew exactly when the first true spring thunderstorm would hit. I would know when it was coming, not because of any weather-person's forecast, but because it always came right when the crab-apple blossoms were ready to fall off the trees. No. When the blossoms were ready to be blown off the trees. When the trees and their blossoms called for the storm.
I remembered back over all the years (twenty in northeast Iowa, fifteen since I had been observing this particular crab-apple tree) in which I could now clearly recall how each spring there was a storm that blew the petals off the crab-apple blossoms. The tree doesn't flower according to a human calendar or a meteorologist's report. The date is a little different each year. But the first storm of a certain kind always comes at the same exact time in relationship to the tree.
In one moment of flooding-in of some connection with ancient knowing, of people whose families lived on one land for generation after generation beyond what modern western man can measure with his-tory, I saw how deep, real, lucid, and expressive, the functions and language of nature are. Our human science of meteorology is great and amazing, and I appreciate it because it helps me a lot, but it is less than half the story. Yet we think we have discovered, and uncovered, and know so much. There are systems at work and interactions in play, that occur completely under our scientific and technological radar.
There is something extremely satisfying to the soul, about spending enough time in a place, that one really gets to know the weather. Where it becomes so deeply imbedded in your bones that it's like knowing your own body, your own moods. You know what triggers the storms, and what days feel like when you find that warm, happy, calm place of peace. You recognize what it means to be walking down that same old gravel road again, for the thousandth time, for better or worse. You know exactly what your shadow looks like on a cold, crisp fall morning, and what it looks like at the end of a long, hot, steamy summer day.
What do we call this kind of weather report? It's ecopsychological, in understanding the deeper, wider human-nature relationship. It's transpersonal, acknowledging that there are forces at work larger than our individual selves, and that scientific knowledge is not the be-all, end-all of understanding but is only one part. Helpful, amazing and beautiful in its own right, but just a part. There are more ways that the world works, then what our science tells us, and-wow-how life expands when we recognize and honor that...when we open our minds and hearts to seeing these relationships in ways outside our box of science.
It could be called earth-based wisdom. Some would say women's wisdom. It's "Farmer's Almanac" wisdom. It's shamanic wisdom. It's indigenous wisdom, the kind of knowledge people have who are connected to the land, the way my Polish and German ancestors were many, many generations ago when their lives still revolved around natural cycles. That information is not lost to us. Many of us were dislocated from that wisdom through a variety of reasons and circumstances, but we can feel our roots again, sinking in and reaching out into our landscape, soaking up the very real, observable knowledge all around us if we only look, notice, and feel.
But our role is not only to drink it in, one more thing to consume. Once we begin to sense that we are tuning our instrument into this amazing, beautiful music, it is both a joy and our responsibility to sing these joyful songs in whatever way feels right for us to share them. Maybe it is when grandparents say those things to kids, like: "Look! Look at the crab-apple blossoms!" Maybe it is by asking elders questions. Maybe it is keeping a diary. Maybe it is writing a blog. Maybe it comes through in the way we sing in church, when we notice the hymn is all about rain, and love, and growing things. Maybe we sing to the trees and wildflowers when we're alone in the woods. Maybe it is when community leaders use their role to protect the natural and ecological beauty of the area, as a resource, yes, but also as more than just a resource...as a part of who we are...the body of us, individually and collectively. Maybe we write poetry. Plant gardens. Notice. Love. Share. Notice again.
Fall is on the way, and winter after that. I feel it in my bones and in my mood. It has the familiar comfort of a worn blanket. Yet there is the excitement of something new to notice about the transition which always has so many beautiful differences in its sameness. Just like I am always changing at the same time I am always staying the same. I know if I make it through another winter, I will smell the sweet, warm crab-apple breezes again, and feel them lulling me to into a spring nap, so much lighter than the deep sleep of winter. I will know when to expect the storm. I love that I know this place. Something deep and true came into my conscious awareness. It took me long enough. Imagine how well people could know a place, and themselves as a community, after passing down centuries of observation. Many of us are newbies here. In such a beautiful place, what an amazing opportunity there is to grow wisdom.
*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.