The Seasons

 Fredericksted Beach

Fredericksted Beach

I often am asked if we have seasons here in the Virgin Islands. The answer is a qualified Yes.  Our seasons are not marked by dramatic changes in temperature; but we have a dry season (roughly December to May) and a moist season (roughly June to November), and some in-betweens.  Although we talk about our seasons of Winter, Summer, Spring and Fall here, our seasonal differences are actually quite a bit more subtle than those in higher latitudes. Generally speaking, we have beautiful summer-like weather year-round. 

 Mahogany: Spring at top, Fall at bottom

Mahogany: Spring at top, Fall at bottom

In fact, in the Fall months (the latter months of the calendar), our leaves don’t fall.  Instead, because we are in the rainy season, things are growing like crazy.  Our real Fall – meaning when the leaves fall - happens during the Spring months, usually in April or May.  You might first notice that, as dry season progresses, things are beginning to turn brown.  Then you notice leaves are beginning to fall.  But if you look closely, you’ll see that right behind them is new growth.  In a matter of just weeks, we get both Fall and Spring at the same time.  Mahogany trees dry and drop their leaves, and simultaneously pale green new growth takes their place.  Grasses turn brown and wither, but new blades come up at the same time. Tan Tan trees quickly go bare except for the rattling dried seed pods still hanging on, but suddenly there are new soft frothy leaves emerging as the seed pods begin to drop.  Dried leaves pile up on the ground only to be pushed aside by little flowers poking their heads out to the sun. And it all happens at once.

 Falling leaves among spring flowers

Falling leaves among spring flowers

It’s all happening right now and right on schedule, and I've come to love how Fall and Spring happen all at once here.  To me, it’s the perfect way to look at life:  that at the same time the old in me is drying up and falling away, the new in me is being reborn and nourished.  It’s not one or the other – it’s all.  It’s now. If I think it’s only Fall in my life, it’s only because I’m not looking at the signs of Spring that are already present. And if I think it’s all (or should be) all Spring all the time, it is only because I'm forgetting that the space and nourishment for new growth are created out of my past experiences and through letting them go. It’s Spring/Fall, and it’s always happening now.  It's a manifestation of the Hebrew phrase “Baruch Bashan” which has been translated as “the blessings already are.”

 Hurricane Maria's version of fall

Hurricane Maria's version of fall

This Spring/Fall is particularly special, not only because it is wonderfully beautiful, but because it is the second one we’ve had in only seven months.  That’s because last September, the leaves did fall, as well as most of the twigs and stems, many of the branches, and far too many whole trees.  Category 5 Hurricanes Irma and Maria screamed through our lush wet-season island and turned it barren and brown overnight (in addition to inflicting grievous harm on our structures and infrastructure). But Nature is tenacious, so she created Spring right there in the midst of Fall, and started growing trees and plants of all kinds all over again.  “No twigs for my leaves!” cried the trees.  “Fine,” said Nature, “we’ll just push the new growth right out through your bark.” And overnight the island started to green.  “How will our plants be strong enough, particularly with dry season right around the corner?” we all wondered.  “No problem,” said Nature, “I’ll soften the earth and refill the long-depleted underground waterways with a month of downpours.” Sure, there were muds and floods galore, but the green got greener, and the new growth began to cover some of the rubble and hurricane-damaged land. Now able to send down deeper, stronger roots than before, the existing trees and plants continued to grow and flourish right into the dry season, and new plants have popped up everywhere, even out of rocks. 

 Springing forth in the fall

Springing forth in the fall

Nature, it seems, is tenacious and adaptable, and will support life in amazing ways.  This too, is a life lesson from Nature:  In those times when I feel stuck, or when I feel that something or someone has been taken away from me, I can choose to focus on the loss, on the lack, or I can dig a little deeper for my own resilience, knowing that I can turn that Fall into Spring.

Perhaps from time to time you have felt strafed and damaged by a hurricane of life events that came your way.  Perhaps from time to time you have felt stuck in what appeared to be an endless, singular season of your life.  But each time you, like Nature itself, have reached into that great resilience lying just underneath the surface of your perception, and have found new life emerging in the midst of the old.

Like this beautiful island, each of us has the ability to turn our losses into new growth. We can clear the debris of old experiences and patterns to make way for the new, knowing that the new is already present and growing. When we are willing  to perceive the old in the new and the new in the old, we can experience the all-at-once-ness of life with joyful acceptance. As the saying goes, "the blessings [and the seasons] already are."

May you embrace the fullness of your season with acceptance and gratitude for what has been and what is yet to come, for surely all is present now.

Baruch Bashan.