This post appeared first in The Finger Lakes Times (NY), a an installment in the weekly series, “Denim Spirit.” http://www.fltimes.com/opinion/denim-spirit-framing-our-stick-season/article_1f5d4a08-dcd0-57e9-91a7-8f9c749f8833.html
We are in the dead of stick season now.
The colors are gone. Vibrancy will not return for at least five months. The charms of Halloween do not even appear in the rearview mirror, and the cozy table of Thanksgiving is a distant sail disappearing over the horizon.
It is not unlike when spring gives winter a hip bump and tries to cut in line early. The shift between those seasons is usually ugly too, with cold rain, sleet, and receding snow revealing nasty liter from poorly socialized dog owners.
Stick season is a darkening gray succession of days enveloping the decaying remains of summer. It will not end until that first big snow of winter.
Our lives have stick seasons too.
There are seasons of life in which we feel like barren shrubs in winter left with naked branches blowing inelegantly in the wind, and once we have entered such gray, it can seem as though green is a color permanently exiled to our past. Those are the moments we have a life-defining decision to make.
My dog is terminally happy. She lives utterly and completely in the moment. If she has ever been sad it was for a few seconds until the next feeling came along and she was totally absorbed by it. She is the very definition of existential, and that is all she is – all in, all the time, in every moment. For good or for ill, and it is both, we are a different kind of creature.
Popular spirituality aside, we cannot live in the moment. We can visit the moment, but more than that will cause us to become beastly – literally. We have the capacity to remember the past and reflect on it. We have the ability to imagine the future and strategize toward it. In stick season, we need to do both.
In the days when light is dwindling and gray a pall upon the landscape, the ability to remember we have been here before and that we moved through it, can be an enormous benefit. Our ability to will the mind, to refuse the power of the moment to define the rest of life, is a distinctly human blessing.
We get to choose how to frame any moment or event in our lives, rather than remain passively subject to the forces within those circumstances.
When stick season arrives, the one of barren trees or an internal one barren of joy, we have the amazing capacity to frame what we are going through as temporary, and even give it meaning within a greater purpose. Then we have a second blessing, which is to plan how we will make our way into a new season, one that is easier on the eyes and more conducive to growth.
If we find ourselves stuck in stick season, regardless of the time of year, it might be because we are not using the full range of our human capacity. Exercising the powerful gift to frame or re-frame any and all moments, is more than a mental trick. It is the very capacity that allowed us to harness fire, and live in arid deserts, on frozen icecaps, and in danger infested jungles.