Friday, August 31, 2012

Three Thoughts about Seasons


 "Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each."
                                                                                Henry David Thoreau
                                                                               1817-1862
                                                                                Writer, Philosopher, Naturalist

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…Been thinking about how each season invites me to look at my surroundings in a new way and offers an opportunity to regroup, to reconsider my responsibilities, and to evaluate my priorities.  I hope my musings and the background info about Henry David Thoreau encourages you to do the same.



~~ 1 ~~
My first job after graduating from college was as a Technical Writer for a computer software company but after a month in that position, I knew I didn’t want to make a career of writing user manuals. A few months later, I transferred to the sales and marketing side of things and spent the next three years writing promotional material. I was much happier and frankly, relieved, to be done with (what I thought was) the mundane, repetitious process of writing instructions.

I never truly appreciated those first six months of employment -- until now.

I spent much of this past July and August testing a computer software program, reviewing the national organization’s user manual and writing instructions to help our local users. I pay a majority of my bills electronically and do my fair share of online shopping so was relatively comfortable clicking through the 15 webpages of requests for information. But I have a pretty good idea how our high school seniors--those who will use the software to apply for college scholarships--will react. They’re going to be impatient and they’ll find the process tedious.

I’m no longer in touch with the techno word man I worked for those first six months of the real world, but I wish I could tell him thank you for emphasizing that every word is important and for showing me how to write with the reader in mind.


~~ 2 ~~
I’ve lived in the four-season world of the Midwest all my life. I mark time by the weather and its effect on planting, growing, and harvesting crops. On trees sprouting leaves, flowering blooms, and changing colors. On temperatures that range from minus 10 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. On drought, flooding , blizzards, destructive winds and stillness. 

None of the four are my favorite, yet all are my favorite.

My dad had similar sentiments. A farmer, he noted the subtle changes of each season -- variations in soil quality, water pressure, and bugs for example. He appreciated and respected the role each had on his livelihood, and I think that’s why one of his favorite Bible verses was from Ecclesiastes 3 and why I grew up listening to Judy Collins.



~~ 3 ~~
Another school year has begun and it’s the final year of high school for the second of my three children. By the time the third is done with college, I figure I’ll have lived through 24 years of school seasons. That’s a big chunk of my adult life no matter how you look at it -- whether divided by   
  • the 9-month classroom instruction/3-month summer vacation cycle,
  • the 6 to 8 weeks of marching band/pep band/ jazz band and football/basketball/tennis/baseball schedules,
  • the 2-year preschool/ 5-year elementary/ 4-year middle school, high school and college settings
 Or by celebrations for
  • counting to 100, memorizing multiplication tables, understanding the quadratic formula,
  • mastering the drum roll, the trap set,  the quads,  the quints,
  • sinking a free throw, taking a charge, adding topspin to a serve, and
  • deciding on a college and field of study.
Once again, neither season is my favorite, yet all are my favorite.

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About Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau became a schoolteacher after graduating from Harvard in 1837, but he resigned after only three weeks because he didn’t agree that he should use corporal punishment on his students. He and his brother, John, then founded an elementary school where they introduced the idea of field trips so children could see the real world in action. The school closed four years later when Henry’s brother passed away. 

Thoreau took up journaling at the advice of his mentor and friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson and is best known for the two years he lived in a hut he built in the woods near Walden Pond (on land owned by Emerson). Walden, or Life in the Woods, was published in 1854 from these journal entries and is credited for inspiring the modern conservation movement. His other well-known works--Civil Disobedience and A Plea for Captain John Brown—influenced the leaders of many social reforms, including Tolstoy, Ghandi, and Martin Luther King.

He worked as a tutor and gardener for a few years but spent the majority of his working life in the family’s pencil factory where he perfected the process for making graphite pencils.

The quote, above, is from Thoreau’s August 23, 1853 entry (Journal VI; March 5-November 30, 1853). In it, he compares the seasons of the day with the seasons of the year and refers to the flowering cistus as an example.  
“… I think that a perfect parallel may be drawn between the seasons of the day and of the year. Perhaps after middle age man ceases to be interested in the morning and in the spring.“
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