"One way or another, we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity in this contemporary life, and dedicate ourselves to that."
~ Joseph Campbell
As humans we have watched the patterns of the seasons and marked them systematically on our calendars. However, the reality of them is something more gradual. Spring can come early or late. It is seldom something that physically arrives like a train. Instead it morphs from one condition to another in subtle ways. While we can see the changes happening they seem to happen in small moments of presence and realization. Every location on the planet gets to experience the season in time with the collaboration of Earth tilt, geography, weather patterns and more.
Fishing streams flow with the seasons too. Streams slow down in the winter, gather ice and go to sleep. Then comes the spring and everything that comes with it. The streams slowly begin to melt out, build up current and start to sneak against the banks. The temperatures of the melt off keep the water just cool enough that the fish stay deep and stay sluggish for a while longer, conserving their energy for just a little longer and letting the food come to them instead of wasting energy on pursuit. Of course, the warmer seasons bring ideal feeding and thriving conditions that we connect to as our happiest days on the water.
The cycling spectrum of the seasons, when you pay attention and look at them closely, can act often as a compass for us in our lives. How many of us hunker in for the winter and tie flies, dream of the spring and summer months? Winter is a season of biding my time, resting, reflecting and sitting in preparation and planning for the oncoming year. It is not surprising that I get prematurely enthusiastic every year by the melting of the snow and watching the renewal date for fishing licenses approach. Colorado has a way of kicking me with beautiful clear spring like days that get dashed by slush storms and stubborn, stasis minded fish.
As I walked out into my yard today I noticed that once again I was watching the slushy spring snow storms blanketing everything in white, weighing down tree limbs and would melt away by noon. This process of the season has had the effect of watering areas of grass and garden sparking patches of chlorophyll greened grass, sprouts of plant matter and foolish blooms on trees.
The signs of the season are there for us if we slow down to their speed and recognize ourselves in them. Nature and the seasons have a way of reminding us that we must be present with what is in front of us and not lost in the illusion of what we imagine we want. We fool ourselves and are like the blooms of the aforementioned trees. We can't get ahead of the seasons without being hit by them. When we do, nature will surely remind us.
We all get that spring fever I think and we all jump the gun in life in other things too. Rather than waiting for the season to come. We push our lives and projects forward and sometimes in foolish directions to get there. The season has its own plans and way. Just a few weeks after renewing our licenses here in Colorado, we get to watch the streams wash out almost overnight into raging muddy slop that washes through and away the stream bottom and channels that we thought we were committing to memory for a sure thing hole in the spring.
By later spring we are better though and maybe find ourselves on track and our biggest challenge is trying to decide where to fish or how to sidestep a patch of poison ivy. Our vehicles are loaded and ready. We are prepared for any free moment that presents itself to bolt and be lost in the settled new runs. We start to see fish rising again and we reaffirm our needs to keep to the techniques we seem to have forgotten slightly as we remove our flies and lines from surrounding trees or toss a sloppy cast that scares fish to the depths.
When we overlap and compare the seasons to our lives we see ourselves clearly and form a better relationship to nature and how our lives fit into that bigger picture. There is a synchronicity that we need to find and match to the reality before us. And it is not so difficult to do. We need only stop what we are doing and become present to the reality of experience before us. We can listen to what our intuition is telling us. We become better at this through practice in listening to ourselves and respecting that inner wisdom that rises.
I believe strongly in looking to metaphor as way to understand the world we are in and where I am in relation to it. We must respect the seasons of the year and recognize the seasons of our inner lives. Our minds function very easily with metaphors and can use the abstract of them to process relative patterns to help us understand our place, role and what we need to do and when.
Recently I found myself out of sync with the seasons of my own life and making quick decisions that would have pulled me in way over my head. While my intentions were good they were not in time with the season of where I was personally and as a result I ignored the conditions and took steps in directions I didn't really want to go. We all do this at some point in our lives and it is important to remember that it is okay to step backwards and wait or to take a different path.
It is fortunate that we are not alone. We have friends and can build a community that works together to help each other. It is important to keep coming back to our center again and again. We can step back quickly as needed with frustration and without shame.
I suppose if there is one thing we can do other than to watch and sync ourselves with the seasons is to listen also to the people around us. Make real time to get together face to face if you can and listen to their thoughts, ideas and perspective. When we rely too much on our own minds, ideas and agendas we can head in the wrong direction People in our community are an integral part of our world. Like the trees, grass and other plant life they can help us recognize the season.
Fishing teaches us patience, attention and perseverance. I will be renewing my license soon and preparing for the spring fishing all in good time but also “on time”. I know that I am going to continue to practice tuning into and listening to the wisdom the seasons are communicating to me. I am going to let the seasons be my guide and make my changes and steps slowly. Life isn't a race but a series of transitions.
Dennis Vander Houwen lives in Colorado with his patient and supportive wife, talented artist son, a cuddly dog, and a very lucky cat. Dennis is an avid minimalist, wood craftsman, curious tinkerer and learner and most notably a deeply focused tenkara angler.