Lessons from the Rocking Chair, Part Two

Seasons pass quickly.

In hindsight’s 20/20, that is. There was the Newborn Season, equal parts exhilaration and joyful new love and sheer terror at being completely responsible for a helpless new being’s existence. There was the Thursh Season, now referred to as “Voldemort” (that-which-shall-not-be-named, lest any iota of that terribleness still linger in the dark corners of the house). There was the Unfolding Season, as S. left behind his newborn ways and transformed into his own jolly personality. And now we find ourselves at the dawn of the Moving Season, during which S. will take off crawling and discover every un-child-proofed cabinet and outlet we overlooked.

The seasons have flown by. As I watched from the rocking chair near S’s window, the leaves browned, then danced away in the wind. The pines filled up with snow, then thawed, then froze again in early spring fog. I rocked and rocked, watching and waiting as the seasons turned.

They rolled by unseen, one to the next, strung together by the weeks of Growth Spurts and Diaper Rash and Solid Foods and Why-Isn’t-He-Sleeping-Through-The-Night-Anymore. Weeks which themselves were made up of long days and nights of nursing and diapering and rocking and soothing, hours of changing and washing and feeding and crying. A friend shared with me a wise piece of advice from her own mothering spirit: treasure each moment – the years go by quickly though the days seem long.

And the days seemed long. At times they seemed endless. The summer tumbled right into fall before I even noticed, emerging bleary-eyed one morning to find that the garden was harvested. For months I felt stuck back in August, as if my inner clock had stopped while the world marched on without me. Soon the first snowflakes began to fall, and I had to swallow back the dread I felt that winter was already here. I was convinced I would go positively Sylvia-Plath-crazy from cabin fever, cooped up in a small house with a small baby for months and months as the midwestern winter swirled by outside, trapping us indoors. I dreaded the new season’s arrival and stepped up my mutterings about how humans should learn from other animals and start to migrate south.

But then, to my surprise, that season passed as quickly as summer and fall before it. Just like the months when I was convinced that Voldemort would never leave, that S. would never sleep through the night, that he would never smile, never roll over, and on and on and on. Seasons pass quickly; one week’s all-consuming worry is vanished by the next. But somehow that perspective eludes me in the moment – all that matters is the present concern, the day’s own challenge.

Lent has come and nearly gone as well. The church’s seasons pass as quickly as nature’s. I am always shocked to find that the wilderness of Lenten penance is all-too-soon rushing into Easter springs of joy. I sigh, declare that yet again, I haven’t lived this Lent well, haven’t entered fully into the discipline, the denial, the desert. Perhaps the passage of Lent takes me by surprise for the same reason that the turning seasons or S.’s plumping growth seems sudden once I take notice: I have been so preoccupied with whatever the day’s must-dos that the long view passes me by. Like a rocky hike where I watch my feet for most of the climb to make sure I don’t trip, and then arrive with shock at the summit, unaware of what I’ve just passed through.

Is this just a matter of mindfulness, of entering in rather than observing from outside? Or does it teach me something more about God’s abiding presence, everywhere and always, in contrast with my ever-flittering mind, consumed with this worry and that to-do? Yet God also set the seasons to change, to teach us about life and death, growth and rebirth, rest and rhythm. “This, too, shall pass” – the joy as well as the suffering. None of it lasts. To be present to this ever-changing reality is to learn something about God as well. Ever new, ever the same. Only God remains.

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