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  • Mj Pettengill

Skeletons of the Past Season


New England Aster, Mj Pettengill

This morning, I set my eyes on the frost-covered fields. What stood boldly in green yesterday has begun its transformation to black and gray. Often, it is the edges that succumb first, while the greenness clings to the vine. Plants are a constant reminder of the many phases of life and death. Too often, we miss it, throwing away the flowers in a vase when they begin to wilt. I get that. In my youthful ignorance, I have discarded many such blossoms. I have learned to appreciate all phases of that which was once thriving and full of life. Think about an aging friend or relative. Would you toss them into the compost when they began to wrinkle, stoop in posture, and show signs of deteriorating? Of course not. This is when the compassionate, competent being moves in a bit closer to lend support and love while gleaning wisdom from a lifetime of experience. This is an opportunity to bestow honor and respect. In the plant dying process, it is common for many flowers (and fruits) to become sweeter and more fragrant as they pull in their energy and become concentrated. This is an example of full ripening at its best. It may not be beautiful to look at, but that is likely due to our programming.

I am not suggesting that you fill your space with rotting flowers. I ask that you are not hasty in throwing them away too soon. There is learning in every action if so chosen. I rarely bring cut flowers into my home. I prefer to share in their existence with our roots planted firmly in the earth—theirs in a literal sense. So, as I gaze out over the sparkling, frosted fields, a sense of melancholy and longing sweeps over me. I acknowledge (there’s that word again). Then, I lovingly release. Why the sadness? Because as an individual, I tend to inhabit elements of my world. I often find myself loving too much, becoming attached. This is where awareness and willingness to find balance comes sharply into focus. As much as I appreciate each season in New England, I have generally become less fond of winter. Therefore, I continue to reach back into my reserves to recall the beauty and stillness of this time and the fierceness of blinding storms.

I know that when winter arrives, I will become like a child, racing to find my boots and mittens, rushing out to play and create my first snow angel. Our world is ours by design. It serves me well to embrace my inner child in the name of playful innocence, not only in the remains of her unhealed wounds. When we get caught up in a rigid thought pattern, we miss out on the opportunity to enjoy our experience. I make the most of each season. The past is filled with learning. This is good—required in our personal and collective growth and development. Especially now, with the state of the outer world in massive transition, it is vital to be present but not so immersed that we get lost.

Much of my day is spent outdoors. I walk, sit, gather, and communicate with life in the wild. Our connection is strong, and I have come to rely on it. I learned that this transformation is not about bidding farewell to my warm-weather friends but an act of releasing us all into the nature of recycling. It’s time to retreat— some into the warm, safe bosom of our Mother, into the rich, dark soil, while others slumber in dens and caves—the proverbial womb of Our Mother.

I will wait for the skeletons of the tall stalks of primrose, asters, ferns, and the others to appear, stark against the backdrop of golden grasses and bare trees. This is the beginning of this cycle. It is November that aches. In the past, I chose to carry this emptiness within, almost as a sense of abandonment. There is no love in it.

All of this accompanies the final song of one lone cricket. I have learned to embrace the yearning for the flowering to continue while accepting that it is not the law of nature. The opportunity for birth, life, fading, death, and rebirth is a gift. With great respect, I value this unending cycle of being.

Again, I look out over the fields. A sea of browns, reds, and fading greens are skeletons of the past season. I carry the warmth of this memory deep within to call upon during the dark, frigid days of winter, necessary for the jubilant welcoming of the next spring.


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