Seasons of the Soul

Canning jars filled with soup

In the days following the Chrysalis Retreat I moved into the hot job of processing this summer’s bounty.  I went again and again to the garden and filled jars with boiling hot soups—chili, curry vegetable, mystery vegetable—and pickles.  The beautiful jars stand in my new pantry like excited children waiting for the first snows of winter.

The garden is changing.  It withdraws its energy and begins to pull inward.  The leaves of the strawberries are limp and rusty, the bean leaves begin to pale.  These signs, as much as the cool nights, tell me that the season has changed.  Even the air smells differently.

Fall may be my favorite season.  The hectic, sometimes almost frantic energy of summer stalls and begins to wane, and I love the subtle pull inward.  I feel introspective, contemplative, questions of place and purpose return to grow in this more silent soil.

I had told the women at the retreat that I would recap the main ideas of my presentations for them as I used no notes or handouts during the four days we were together.  It was a perfect task to do as the food filled the hot jars.  As I backtracked over the ground I had covered, I realized several things.  First was that each hour long presentation represented at least a full decade of my personal study and research.  In order to not overwhelm the women, I had to work hard to distill out the essence of each decade—not an easy task.  For the retreat our theme was “We are all Related,” and I focused on relationship—with the self, with others, with family and community, and with our own spirit.

For the retreat I framed it as a nest of triangles or matrices beginning with the first bonds of birth and mother, extending out to family and then community, and then out to the world and finally our own spirit and belonging with the greater forces of life.  The word “matrix” means “mother” in Latin.

What emerged for me from this distillation is the realization that I see our lives unfolding much like the seasons.  I could take the example of nature (our common mother) and use it to frame my ideas, a kind of seasons of the soul.  I want to have some fun playing with “seasons” here.


The time of primal connection, seed to soil, sperm to egg, vapor to rain, a mysterious process by which all is born and brought to life.  It is also a time of germination of ideas, of creation, of connection.


Wild, nearly uncontrollable growth, a time of thinning, of weeding, of clearing space for the right things to grow.  We spring to life in summer.  We bear fruit, expand, reach, and take in sun and rain.  We grow.


The time of harvest, of gathering, of bringing in what the spring and summer have given us.  We pick and process, pick and process, pick and process.  We pull inward taking back inside what has been rioting out here in the world.  We mix one thing with another into a mystery soup of experience.


We swallow what has come in the previous three seasons.  We digest.  We tell stories, reflect, contemplate, grow deeper inside like a bear in his den.  We hibernate.  We sleep.  We rest.  We prepare for the next period of growth.

And just as nature has her seasons, there are storms and messes and failures.  There are crops that wither, and seeds that refuse to sprout, and winters that nearly kill us.  It is a messy world, nature.  Our human nature is equally messy and equally beautiful—there is no paradox in that.  We can also pass through all four seasons around a single experience in our lives.  It is a cycle.

When I play with it this way, I see many things.  I see that the energy that fuels these seasons of the soul is our connection to our own selves and to each other and to the great unknowable energy of the creator.

Our belonging.  I have spent so many years wondering about the power of belonging.  I can see that it fuels our love, our hate, and our grief.  It feeds into the violence of the world or the individual soul.  It also feeds into deep and lasting compassion.  It can make our garden beautiful or ugly depending upon the quality and construction of that belonging.   It is a perfect web—except when the spider forgets how to build her web and the matrix is incomplete.

I need to get out of my theoretical frame, as lovely as it is and as much as I am enjoying it.  On a practical level, I think we need to develop extreme curiosity about our relationships.  At the end of my summary for the retreat, I had written several statements that I felt related to being a person in tune with their own spirit.  I’ll add them here for you to take into your own autumn.

I am not a victim of my circumstances.

I must question the rules when necessary.

I connect with others—we are all related.

I offer my gifts outwardly to my family, community, and the world.

I accept and transform my suffering—always, deeply, without remorse or regret.

I am aware of the suffering of others.

I ask for help when I need it.

I seek beauty, serenity, and deep relationship with others.

I refuse or examine that which keeps me stuck and small.

I am gentle with myself and others.

Tell me a story about one of your “seasons” of the soul. I like it when the comments continue our conversation as if we were sitting across the table from one another. Also, Maggie and Dave–you can read my wild rice story on this blog, actually–another great fall story for all. Just click here The Rice Song  and it will take you there.

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Seasons of the Soul — 2 Comments

  1. We are all related. Though miles apart, I notice similar themes emerging in our writings week by week,Jamie. I so appreciate the chance to connect with you, thought by thought, soul to soul.

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