I Do Declare: Summer is upon us and growth is everywhere

Tomato growth is a piece of cake compared to personal growth.

Yesterday was the Summer Solstice – the first day of Summer, the longest day (in daylight hours) of the year – and once again I’m reminded of the song “Turn” by the Byrds, which starts this way:

To everything
Turn, turn, turn
There is a season
Turn, turn, turn

I delved into this in a previous post, noting some of the eternal truths about the passing of time: namely, that it’s fleeting, that the current state (whether good or bad) shall pass eventually, that there’s a season for everything.

Seasons change. But while they’re here, they have something to teach us.

In the Summer season, it’s all about growth.

This season is when the corn stalks get taller, the watermelons get fatter, and most produce (the seasonal crop, anyway) is ready to be picked.

The seeds that were planted weeks or months ago have grown into the fruits and vegetables and flowers that we enjoy now.

Of course, it wasn’t instantaneous. A lot happens between seed in the ground and tomato on the vine. Cultivating. Planting. Fertilizing. Weeding. Some seeds don’t make it and you try again. Because the growth is worth it.

I love the Summer analogy applied to life. I find it fascinating to ponder the moments I’ve spent cultivating relationships and opportunities, watching seeds of ideas come to fruition, laboring over fertilizing the good and enduring the painful weeding out of the bad.

Just like the berries and cucumbers and roses and tomatoes and gardenias and squash and hydrangeas I’ve been tending lately, the meticulous efforts of growth in my life are a lot of work. But so worth it.

I Do Declare: Mother’s Day is a time to think about birthing things

As yesterday was Mother’s Day, I thought I’d share a story about learning that labor and delivery has many meanings.

Years ago, I was having some issues over what to do with my life. Now, it was nothing dramatic or weird. Nothing huge enough to be called an existential crisis (a term I dislike intensely: you already exist, just deal with it pretty much sums up my attitude), but it was a little more than a grumpy mood.

Conundrum is the word I’m looking for. I was in a conundrum because at the time I was a stay-at-home mom, up to my neck in diapers and formula and Sesame Street, and I wanted to be back doing a job and getting paid.

The trouble was I couldn’t find work making enough to clear daycare for three kids, and every time I thought about leaving them with someone else, I had major mom-guilt, plus going back to work meant I would miss Reading Rainbow and a day without LeVar Burton is a day without books and singing. (Butterfly in the sky … I can go twice as hiiiiigh … take a look … it’s in a book … Reading Rainbow!)

I wanted to stay at home with my kids. I loved it. I also wanted to go back to work. I loved it.

See the conundrum? Round and round I went.

I took my conundrum to my pastor, and she listened to me chase it round and round like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof (“… but on the other hand … but on the other hand …”) and never once rolled her eyes at my blathering, not even when I blurted out, as I was championing the cause of “the other hand”:

“If I’m not being a mother and taking care of kids, what would I do? Who would I be?”

(Part of me cringes at those words. But they came from a place of truth. At that time and place, that’s what was in my heart.)

She thought for a moment and said, “There are many things to labor over.”

Which stopped the chase.

She was right. There are many things to labor over, many things to give birth to and love and care for. Ideas to generate. Things to create. Even the general notion of creating is a birthing process.

I’ve thought about that conversation many times. And I’ve given thanks for it many times.

Yes, I did eventually go back to work, after the kids were a little older (two of them in school, one in daycare). And then a few years later I came back home to be a freelancer – for two reasons: 1. Because the corporate world wasn’t the greener pasture thought it was (I’m glad the “other hand” didn’t win out years earlier, because then I would’ve had yet another conundrum, squared); and 2. Because there are many things to labor over and give birth to and those things, for me, include creative works.

It should come as no surprise that when I dream about having babies or being in labor – which I do quite often – it’s always about a creative work. A novel. A screenplay. A series of ebooks. Something I’m laboring over. Something I’m giving birth to.

Right Now: I cannot improve on Seneca’s advice

Seneca, part of double-herm in Antikensammlung Berlin. Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2456052

First a word about Seneca:

His full name was Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger, and he was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and satirist.

He was known for his philosophical work and his plays, which were all tragedies, but we won’t hold that against him. (Comedy is hard.)

His prose includes a dozen essays and 124 letters dealing with morality. His best-known plays include Medea, Thyestes, and Phaedra.

He was quite influential on later generations. During the Renaissance, Seneca was (according to E.F. Watling in Four Tragedies and Octavia) “a sage admired and venerated as an oracle of moral, even of Christian edification; a master of literary style and a model [for] dramatic art.”

This is a guy I’m going to listen to.

Here’s one of his quotes. This is the advice I cannot improve upon — and, I’m guessing, neither can you:

We must go for walks out of doors, so that the mind can be strengthened and invigorated by a clear sky and plenty of fresh air. At times it will acquire fresh energy from a journey by carriage and a change of scene, or from socializing and drinking freely. Occasionally we should even come to the point of intoxication, sinking into drink but not being totally flooded by it; for it does wash away cares, and stirs the mind to its depths, and heals sorrow just as it heals certain diseases.