The aster bloomed; September arrived right on schedule. From there, a phrenological chain reaction: a splotch of red on a sumac leaf, a hardened milkweed pod, a wisp of chill in the formerly hot stagnant air. I grabbed a flannel and watched the geese fly overhead, no longer just going from point A to B, but now practicing for a much longer journey.
Suddenly our priorities shifted: a fall class, a November deadline. There was a sense of urgency where there hadn’t been before. Winter was nearly upon us. There was talk of fuel, of putting up food, do we have enough of this or that. It was only the 1st, but our bones knew the difference – a little less spring in our step, a little extra stiffness in our joints. Soon the whole earth would be tilting.
Back when I worked in education, I was well attuned to the seasons. My time and energy went through distinct phases based on my teaching schedule. August was a period of anticipation; September was an exciting fresh start. October and November were nose to the grindstone months. December was intense as we confronted a mass of deadlines on the cusp of a break. January was a reset, a time to make sure we were reaching the goals we’d set back in August. The spring months built up to an intense pressure that reached its crescendo in early June. Summer was a time for our bodies and minds to rest – at least until the cycle began all over again.
What I mostly remember about those years is how I felt: nervous, excited, focused, reflective, tense. Knowing what was coming next helped immensely. I embraced the nervousness of late summer because I knew it would give way to excitement. I could sustain my focus in fall because I knew a break was just ahead. I could handle the intense pressure at the end of spring because I knew that rest was just on the horizon.
When I left education to become a full time artist, my seasons changed, but not the cyclical nature of my work. It took me a few years to notice the pattern, but now I can clearly see the rhythms within my creative projects: the excitement of possibilities and exploration; the nervous anticipation that gives way to the tension of problem solving. The rock bottom of overwhelm and frustration that breaks free to triumphant exhilaration. The exhaustion that emerges as a child-like smile of relief.
And then, it all begins again.
I didn’t used to be as aware of these creative cycles. I would get stressed and stay there longer than necessary, assuming that what I felt in a given moment was a permanent condition. Or get anxious because I didn’t know the answer, or become tired because I didn’t have time to rest. Now I know the ebbs and flows just as intuitively as I know the subtleties within the seasons of a year.
These days – the days of the bloom of a single aster, the burst of a field of goldenrod, the flit of the monarch and fight of the hummingbird – are filled with preparation. One flannel day ushers us into what’s to come.
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