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I spent two hours today raking and mulching leaves—for the fourth time this fall. When the trees lose their leaves, I find my rake and go to work.
Despite all the labor required for these autumnal cleanup chores, I feel fortunate to have so many mature, beautiful trees in my own yard and throughout the neighborhood.
As a child I played in the leaves, and then, when playtime ended, my parents would burn them. We didn’t know about the negative environmental impact of this practice; that’s just the way things were done then.
I have lived in places without physically obvious seasons, yet with other landmarks throughout the year such as holidays or the first day of school. Whether we mark the seasons by the weather or by events, we humans have probably always noted the passage and cycles of time.
Around here, fall is more than just a messy time of the year. It is also a time for completing outdoor projects and preparing for what’s next. Squirrels busily store food, and I clean up my yard from the summer’s activities.
Winter is a time for a slower pace and at-home projects, with a quiet that seems to infuse nature. While outdoor sports and games do exist, the cold tends to keep me indoors for longer periods of time.
Probably nothing is more welcome than the signs of spring. As soon as bulbs appear through the snow, people seem to be in a happier mood. Longer days of light recharge our energy, and hope is in the air. It is a time for rebirth in nature, a time for celebration.
Then we have summer with its sunshine, heat, energy, and so many possibilities for enjoyment. Children and youth are away from school and might have different arenas for learning or seasonal jobs.
Reflecting on the idea that everything in life has its parallel in the spiritual world, and that seasons represent cycles of life itself, I came across this quotation from Abdu’l-Baha:
In this material world, time has changing cycles and place is subject to varying conditions. Seasons follow one another and individuals progress, regress and develop. …
The very existence of things must ever depend upon, and be perpetuated through, these cycles and successions…The spiritual cycles associated with the Prophets of God proceed in like manner. – Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, pp. 82-83.
The well-known passage from Ecclesiastes 3:1 underscores not only the reality of seasons but also that everything has its time: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”
If a physical year has seasons and if every thing has its time, then even spiritual practice and religion has its seasons and cycles. Abdu’l-Baha referred to the Baha’i Faith as bringing a spiritual springtime through its principles, practices, and institutions:
Now the new age is here and creation is reborn. Humanity hath taken on new life … and the reviving spring is here. All things are now made new. Arts and industries have been reborn, there are new discoveries in science, and there are new inventions … Renewal is the order of the day. – Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 252.
Depending on where we live, the physical experience of the seasons will differ. Regardless of these variations, in our daily lives we see the gradual changes in our physical environment.
Changes in the spiritual climate may be subtler, but they are real. Even though we know that our world is experiencing serious problems, we can also perceive indications of a new spirit of optimism, dignity, faith, and well-being.
It doesn’t happen at the same rate everywhere, and progress doesn’t have linear forward movement. But overall we have reason to be hopeful. Whatever the calendar may say, we are in a period of renewal. Much like a bulb appearing through the snow, we ourselves are living in a time of transition—with better weather and better times ahead.