Autumn in coastal South Carolina is subtle. We don’t get much of the showy reds and oranges and yellows that one thinks of in the fall. We mainly have evergreen trees and plants in the lowcountry: live oaks, pines, palmettos, wax myrtles, loquat and holly. And the dramatic temperature changes can be a bit tricky: hot and humid one day, cool and crisp the next.
When I first moved to Charleston almost 20 years ago from the mid-Atlantic and New England regions, I would have said that Charleston didn’t have an autumn. I desperately missed the traditional fall foliage (though not the cold and snowy winters).
But I wasn’t seeing what was right before my eyes as I drove across the many bridges spanning the region’s salt marshes. I was overlooking the obvious: the subtle changes in color of the Spartina marsh grass from springtime chartreuse to the brown and amber of the fall. Even though I hadn’t noticed the beauty of this season, change was taking place all around me.
I began to wonder what other changes I had not noticed because of subtlety and my inattention.
Learning to open my eyes and mind to change.
I am not particularly comfortable with change–particularly change that surprises me. I suppose that I should not be surprised when things in life do not go according to my plans. Change is happening continually.
But when I am feeling secure in a particular season of life, I somehow I convince myself that everything will stay as it is: children won’t get older, parents won’t get ill, jobs won’t end, . . . . This isn’t a very useful or realistic attitude to take. Looking at the list I realize that it’s a pretty negative view of things. I need to change my perspective and come to terms with the notion that change is a given. But not all change is a bad thing.
Learning to pay attention to the details.
Once I have learned to open my eyes to change, I can begin to see the small, incremental alterations that often lead to the big changes in life.
When my daughter was eight-and-a-half months old, she took her first steps. I was surprised because she did not go through the regular developmental progression of crawling before walking. She went directly from sitting to walking–or at least that is how it seemed. But there were indications that change was happening all along as she pulled herself up to a standing position and began cruising the furniture (at 8 months-yikes!). I must have realized this on a subconscious level because my husband and I knew it was time to move from our tiny downtown Charleston 19th century kitchen house to something with a bit more floor space.
For me documenting the details around me is how I am learning to pay attention. Writing about my life and photographing the world around me helps me to notice the details and the small changes taking place around me.
Learning to see the bigger picture.
Sometimes, though, I can get so caught up in the details that I forget to take a long view of things. It’s a case of the proverbial “not seeing the forest for the trees.” This happens to me creatively quite often when I get so caught up in the minutia of a project I am working on that I forget to step back to see where this particular element fits into the whole.
I am learning to see the bigger picture of particular seasons of my life by looking back and by looking ahead. I try to place this season on the time line of my life (yes, a literal time line) and am able to see that what seems like an interminable period may in reality be only a blip.
I am learning to see connections of a particular season of my life to a past event or time as well as trying to anticipate consequences in the future. I am looking for God’s hand in my life to see what he may doing to shape and form me. I am trying to learn from the difficult times and the easy times.
Learning to embrace the season I am in.
This may be the toughest part of it all. Complaining comes far too easily to me.
I used to tell the girls in my Girl Scout troop, “You get what you get, so don’t throw a fit.” I need to remind myself of this when I lash out and cry to God, “This isn’t fair!”
I’m not suggesting that we don’t have any control over things in our lives so just sit back and take it. Not at all. I am saying that sometimes we find ourselves in a place that is hard or painful perhaps because of something we have done or someone or something else has caused the situation. It may not be fair. It may not be fun. It may be very, very hard.
Now what if I open my eyes and heart to gratitude? What is it in this situation that I can be thankful for? Where can I see the goodness of God? What can I learn? How can I thank Him in this hard season?
The only way I know to do this difficult step is capture it–embrace it–document it.
Do you have a way of embracing the season you are in? How do you respond to change?