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There are times when we feel disconnected, times when we feel so caught up in our own narrow range of focus that we feel that life is moving on without us. Even socially, we might yearn for experiences that speak more to the heart. We are living in a time where we run the risk of being enmeshed in a cocoon of wires. And the connection that those wires may have been intended to create can become a pallid substitute for connection, carrying just an image without substance.

So, where do we look for that deep-seated connection? Perhaps no further than the seasons themselves.

At our deepest biological levels we are oriented to the solar cycle, and so much of the mythology and metaphors that have laid the foundation of our collective cultures are built on the rise and fall of the seasons. Birth, blossoming, bearing fruit, and death are the biggest events in this existence, and our most universal metaphors hold a mirror up to these cycles: the long days of summer and the glory of our vitality; the stark desolation of winter; the rich harvest of autumn; or the delicate blush of the uncertainty of spring. All of these engage us at our very core, and this pattern can be laid across a day, a year, a lifetime, or an entire civilization. These are the ebb and flow of all things.

Before industrialization and the discovery of electricity, we lived much closer to the land: our shortened lives’ survival was intrinsically intertwined with the growing season. But in a temperature-controlled room next to a filled refrigerator, electric lights, wireless communication, and a double-locked door, we are insulated against the daily threats to survival that we used to contend with. And along with being insulated against these threats, we have inadvertently insulated much of our experience from life itself. Thankfully, there are simple changes we can make to align ourselves with natural cycles without reverting to a feral existence.

Most of our holidays find their origins in these sun cycles, even if they have by now been co-opted. The new year emerges from the darkest days, and we find ourselves naturally looking out ahead to chart our course and make those necessary adjustments that become the path of our intent. But there is also a natural dormancy in winter. This is the time, not so much to act, but to gestate. There is a delicate phase when that which we imagine takes time to form, when too much conscious meddling or rush can stultify our plans in a kind of premature birth. Winter tells us this when we take time to turn our attention to the cycle.

The midpoints of seasons used to be given much more attention, especially in agrarian societies whose subsistence depended so closely on the growing seasons of crops and livestock. The mid-day of winter, around the beginning of February, was a time when the tiny roots and shoots underground start to slowly awaken. Many cultures even tied little bells on their ankles as they walked through the fields to encourage the life forces out of their long slumber.

The emerging spring is a time for all things new — new ventures, new projects, new love. Its innocence carries two faces of the same coin. Beginner’s luck is tempered by April’s fool. But if we give in to our own cynicism, we will find that by defending against gullibility, we also block the opportunities presented by spring’s compulsion to act spontaneously.

All of nature is in full bloom in its brightest colors. Spring is defined by fertility – and not just having children or raising a garden. Fertility also has to do with the creativity of our actions and bringing into being the plans we have made. If ever there were a time to act impetuously, it’s when your sap is running and your colors are at their brightest.

So, when summer arrives, the engine should be running in its highest power. No more tentativeness. This is not the time for planning. This is not the time to sit back and analyze. A musician or an athlete can’t perform and spectate simultaneously: to be fully immersed in your pursuits is the apex of all the planning and direction. Being in the moment moving forward is the crest of the wave which is summer.

Surfing is a living metaphor for this concept. Once, body surfing in the Pacific Ocean, where the waves were nearly twice my height, I learned the importance of timing and aligning myself to the forces. To body surf, you have to approach a wave at the swell just before it breaks. In learning this, it was my misfortune to find that if I did not arrive on time, I was met by the already crested wave falling on top of me. Tons of sea water crashed down on me and rolled me along the sandy ocean bottom. But I also learned that if my timing was impeccable, I was effortlessly pushed along by that same immense force of moving water. This perfectly encapsulates the impact of aligning to the vast limitless energy of the natural cycles that surround us.

But, as every crest will fall, summer’s fleeting presence can be felt in slipping away in the long evenings of August. There is an urgency to accomplish all those things we have set out to do as the failing light cedes its crown to autumn.

And yet for some, autumn is the best of times. To farmers, autumn reveals the measure of success that the year’s work has brought in very literal ways. But even without a literal harvest filling the silo, we all have accomplishments that not only deserve our own attention, but require it. Fall is the time that naturally elicits a certain reflection, a turning inward. Look at your good works. Consider the effects that ripple out from them. Take time to acknowledge and appreciate what you have done and see it in the larger context of what you have set out to do.

If we don’t stop to reflect and assert the guidance that reflection brings, we run the risk of being a mere pinball, pushed, launched, and bounced by forces never seen or looked for.

But in the same way that autumn compels us to look back, it also encourages us to gear down and enjoy the fruits of our hard work. It brings a certain leavening and acceptance to the way of things as we settle into the long dark night of winter. And the calmness that comes with that deep rest is the reassurance that everything is in its proper order.

The seasons are so embedded in our being that if we can learn to attune our attention and our efforts to its course and turn, we can find that elusive connection to the vast waves of energy that pull the planet itself. It is a matter of lifting our attention from our own little sidewalk to engage the energy that propels all of life.

Unplug and take a walk.


Tim Sunderman is a graphic designer in the San Francisco bay area who does most of his art without a computer, using traditional techniques in drawing, painting, photography, calligraphy, and even sculpture. He is a graduate of the Academy of Art in San Francisco. He eschews speaking of himself in the third person, as he is here, but doesn't mind too much for shameless self-promotion.

Read this article in Issue 16

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Visit Tim’s website: www.timsunderman.com



Tim Sunderman


Vhcle Magazine Issue 16, Life