The most important lesson I have learned about the seasons, and perhaps the most useful for people to understand, is that seasons do not end–they become the next season. This is not a semantic quibble, but a scientific fact. Everything is a continuum, and anything that is not busy becoming the next version of itself is busy dying. This is not a semantic quibble and so much more than a scientific fact. As with most things we can glean by a practiced nearness to nature, it is a way to understand ourselves, to improve ourselves, to keep moving forward all the time. Aging is not moving closer to death, but becoming older versions of ourselves. We can choose to honor these older versions of ourselves, to add new talents, new knowledge, new experiences, accepting that our new selves are different, but no worse than the old selves. I can no longer do some of the physical things I could do when I was eighteen. But when I was eighteen I knew nothing about the history of Greek philosophy, post-war Japanese fiction, or the development of Steppe societies. Does it matter that I know these things now? That’s not really a fair question.
People have different priorities, and one of mine is to seek to know something new every day. One of the most important things I know is that concerning most people, in most situations, I have no right to judge. I don’t know them, and I don’t know what makes them tick. It may sound pithy and wise to say that people who do not learn all the time are leading wasted lives. But I’m sure there are plenty of people who think I am wasting my life. Suppose I spend the day before my death reading a book about Constantinople. In the evening I will sit over dinner telling my wife some of the things I found deeply interesting about the eastern capital of the Holy Roman Empire. She will politely not roll her eyes, though this will be the ten thousandth such impromptu lecture I’ve given on a subject she cares little about. Later I will go to sleep, and never awake. What does it matter that I died knowing about Constantinople? How many people do I know who will shake their heads that I never experienced with them the things they enjoy most: that I never peddled a bicycle 100 miles in one day with my friend Al, or hunted deer in mid-winter with my friend Curt, or sipped expensive cognac and lit up at a high-end cigar bar with my friend Mark?
So I don’t judge. I only know that being fully human is about being true to what most defines us, and carrying it ever forward. There is no season which is not complete and necessary in itself. All seasons take what is most necessary within them into the next season, where it is changed, and changed again, and carried into the season after that. We also take what is complete and necessary within us into each season we enter, but it is up to us to nourish it and help it grow so we can move on, and move on, and move on.