In August, here in the mountains of southwest Virginia, the trees acquire a dull sheen that signals the end of summer. Heralded by the Dog Days of summer, it's a melancholy, bittersweet season. Daytime temperatures may soar, the humidity is sweltering, but nights are cool. In the morning, a fog rises from the mountains, reminiscent of a Japanese painting. And each day is shorter.
Stars on a late summer night are like diamonds in a velvet sky.
Slice open a bell pepper from the garden, and you're likely to find tiny pale-green peppers growing within. It's as if Nature hurries to replicate herself while there's still time.
Like squirrels that store up their winter food supply, we may busy ourselves cleaning up, clearing out, readying our homes for colder weather. Or we may spend long moments weeding a flower bed, allowing our thoughts to drift to unknown places. We wonder where summer went -- how could it pass by so quickly?
It's almost as if we didn't notice.
Nature gives us little choice but to let go of one season and get on with another. As I soak up the last rays of summer sun, I recognize all over again that the seasons are a metaphor for Life. We, too, must "let go" before we can move ahead.
Letting go is an interesting concept. It's a technique used not only in skillful fly-fishing, but in life. We let go of fear, of the past, of possessions, of a lost love. We let go of anger or a problem relationship. We let go of our children as they mature into their own lives, and when someone we love dies, eventually we let go of grief. In Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon, there's an expression: "Let go, and let God." And in the end, we must let go of life itself.
More people in their 50's, 60's, and older are on meds known as anti-depressants than you might imagine. I attribute a lot of middle-age depression to the feeling that so many seem to have,and have expressed to me, that they look back on their lives and ask, "Is that all there is?" This seems to ride in tandem with, "But there was so much more I wanted to do!"
Begin today. Rekindle a few old, perhaps ancient dreams. You always wanted to play the piano? Sign up for lessons. If you lost ten pounds, you think you'd feel more in shape? Buy a brightly colored sweat suit and take low-impact aerobics. Attend a Weight Watchers group and count your food "points." Enroll in a tole painting class. Find a continuing education class at the local high school or community college about Using the Internet, or making pottery, or learning to quilt. Check with your public library and learn how to join a group of local writers who meet regularly to discuss creative writing.
It doesn't matter what you do -- just that you Do Something! Not doing anything at all is also a choice. There's an old saying: "Do what you've always done, and you'll get what you've
always gotten." The important thing is, you're never too old to learn new things, or to do something interesting just for you.
Getting older doesn't mean you have to stop living. If anything,with time on their hands thanks to retirement, many seniors say they've really started living, at last, and are having the "time of their life." Being active, involved, and interested in life keeps you young, no matter what your chronological age. Let go of your youth, and enjoy celebrating your next birthday as a major Life Milestone. You've earned it!
For a timeless lesson in life that has survived for over 3 centuries, supposedly found in Old Saint Paul's Church in Baltimore and dated 1692, remember "Desiderata" by an anonymous writer. This should be read with the heart:
"Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
"Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
"Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
"Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.
"Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
"You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
"Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
"With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy."
Stephania publishes "Tidbits from the Pantry," a monthly ezine to over 10,000 subscribers.