The Fifth Season

Our farm is situated in upper New York state, in the beautiful Mohawk Valley that features rolling hills, trees, fields and of course, the Mohawk River itself winding eastward to meet the Hudson.

While I have visited many lovely locations in my travels, there are some that utterly lack the dramatic changes of the four seasons. Here at the farm, winter is a wicked wonder, spring is a blush of green and reds as fields and trees burst with life, summer is lush and verdant, and fall is the season that truly sets my heart ablaze in glorious shades of maple. I love the four seasons, all of them.

Recently, I was taken – much against my will – to what I think of as the Fifth Season. The Fifth Season is a season between our illusionary belief that life goes on and on, and the shocking reality that the end is closer than we think. This season can begin at any time, can last for puzzlingly long periods or be abruptly and simply done. Sometimes, I can almost feel it coming, just like the fall winds that eventually contain the sharp bite of winter’s advance. But sometimes, the Fifth Season arrives without warning, an avalanche or flood or torrent of feeling and emotion.

My mom’s shocking diagnosis was the beginning of the Fifth Season as I have yet to experience it. Wildly grateful for my mother’s continued presence in my life at her age of 76, the words that shifted me into the Fifth Season were difficult to accept: pancreatic cancer.

As with any Fifth Season, this too is one that will bring lessons and learning I cannot anticipate. There is pain and fear and sorrow and tears. But I also know from other Fifth Seasons that there is grace, and joy, and pleasure, and laughter, and ultimately, deep peace. I love this picture I snapped of Mom just a few days ago – she is clear, calm, vaguely amused and, well, so “Mom.” In other pictures I captured her laughter and smile, but in this photo, i see the strength of a woman who has seen a lot of life, and who still has plenty of rodeo left.

I am grateful for a chance to experience the Fifth Season with my mother, our final journey together in a lifetime shared. One thing is certain: the Fifth Season is always unique, full of surprises, and nothing at all like I think it might be. It is always a lesson in being in the Now, not rushing ahead to imagined endings for the mysterious play of Life.

For those struggling with their own Fifth Season, I wish you comfort and peace as you move through this season. For myself, my mother, my sisters and brother, and for all who love the great big spirit known as Betty, let us move together through the mysteries of the Fifth Season keeping uppermost the joy of life in our hearts. For all supporting us in a net of love & prayer, know that it is palpable, helpful and appreciated.