To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
Pete Seeger (and Ecclesiastes)
When I first arrived at our island home almost fourteen years ago, I started to garden like a madwoman. This was particularly significant because I had never gardened before. For a few years, the garden was the focal point of my life.
Then, after a momentous year of preparing for an island Garden Tour, I more or less stopped. Moved on to other things (writing). Did a little work in the garden, while dreading the onslaught of weeds. Felt the obligation. Lost the love.
Then this year – almost nine years later, I found myself in love with the garden again. I’m not gardening as before, but am looking forward to time outside without feeling enslaved.
Another possibility of a hidden cycle is my dogs. I lost my beloved Springer Spaniel eighteen years ago. Two cycles of nine later–last year–we began fostering Springers. And if you read last week’s blog, you’ll know that we just adopted our two young bro-boys last week.
Is a new cycle of my life about to start?
Cycles of life
The idea of a cycle is natural. Our lives follow the rhythms of the seasons, day and night, life into death. Watching the brilliant leaves of fall begin to fall (our maples are glorious), I am comforted to know new growth will start again after the winter.
Yet, part of me clings to the idea of free will.
Why should my life and projects be dictated by a cyclic rhythm? What about the great American idea that we make our destiny, build whenever we want, and continually live on the edge of creating some great thing?
It’s humbling to accept that life is not totally dependent on my initiatives. Following the natural rhythm of a time to plant and a time to sow suggests that there may be an organic time to start a project and a time to cease.
This week, I decided not to attend a workshop I might have loved at another point in my life. But not this year. I’m coming to the end of a period in which I have preferred to be more inward and reflective. Go slower. Take more care and do a little less.
Although numerological cycles are intriguing, I don’t believe in following a strict formula, because there are almost always exceptions to any rule. But I do appreciate learning to listen to the cycles within.
Knowing that every cycle has a beginning, middle, and end, keeps me from pushing too hard to start a project (a favorite sport!) when the timing isn’t quite right.
Here’s my take on a nine-phase cycle:
(For a slightly different and more precise take, check out Jean Haner’s book Your Hidden Symmetry: How Your Birth Date Reveals the Plan for Your Life. )
- Beginnings. Allowing yourself to dream.
- Moving out in the world. Choosing a dream or project and beginning to develop it.
- Creating. Beginning the work.
- Continuing to build.
- Allowing change. Learning from experience.
- Nurturing and harvesting.
- Reevaluating and continuing to harvest.
- Beginning to draw in; becoming more reflective.
- Allowing the cycle to complete. Spending time nurturing one’s self in the cocoon before re-emerging. Going fallow.
You don’t have to buy into the cycle of nine to feel how cycles might be operating in your life.
When a project feels sticky getting off the ground, or a move or relationship doesn’t seem to be following your preferred timing, you can ask, “Where am I in the cycle, and what might be being asked of me now?”
To help, here are some sample questions to see where you might be in a cycle:
- Do I feel the energy, green and fresh, of new beginnings, dreams, and yet unformed projects?
- Is it time to get going and build something (a project, a business, a relationship)?
- Is it time to hang in there with what I’m building, and persevere despite challenges I may be facing?
- Do I need to learn from experience and adapt my plans?
- It is time to celebrate the harvest and gather the fruits of what I’ve created?
- Is it time to begin to give away and share lessons with others?
- Am I hearing the rumbles that change is coming?
- Am I sensing that it’s time to complete and let go? Do I feel like pulling in a little?
- Is it time to go fallow, and reflect before life pulls me out again?
If I had my preference, I’d usually opt for the beginning of a cycle. Vision, dreams, possibilities are my native turf.
In the last few years, however, I’ve been living through the end years of a nine-year cycle. I’ve learned about the deepening that comes from spending time in a fertile, fallow period.
I’ve been writing, yes, but not engaging as much outside of my habitat. Doing the inner-tending felt right, knowing that this stage wouldn’t continue forever.
Now, as I move back into the garden, I wonder if things are about to change…