Seasonal disturbance. Nice try. As if this season could be saddled with such troubles. It’s especially hard right now in New England to blame the season for anything, other than a generalized sense of gratitude for the beauty and harmonious functioning of the world. Sure, some monumental asshattery is unfolding in our public life. Sure, inequity and callousness, fear and confusion, thump and sneak about. But don’t lay any of that at June’s feet. June’s ticking along, cool nights, sunny mornings, vines growing leaf by leaf and fruit by fruit. It’s dry, and that can be a bit difficult, but it’s really not possible to name this limpid day as a disturbance. I’ve been sleeping nine hours a night – solid, restful sleep, in which I am aware of dreaming hard and working things through, though the stories evanesce on waking. This time of year is an endlessly replenished cycle of beauty. Peony stays the course, and delphinium joins in. Wild anemone grows tall and opens bright-white stars, while marigold keeps watch over new tomatoes. Asparagus goes into its wild fern-jungle phase and flowers madly, while raspberries prepare their fruit in giant, leafy mounds. It is the opposite of disturbance. It is a laissez-faire of keen abundance.
Probably the same can be said of every season. Divided from the burden of personal preference, autumn, winter, and even mud-season all shine forth in their just-rightness. Divided from the burden of personal preference? What kind of a way to live is that? It sounds brown and boring, coming from the lens of consumer society. It sounds dissociative, bleak, and deathly. But is it? (Ha! Rhetorical questions are seasonal disturbances within thought. These arise from the late arrival of half of Notebook Club.)
Anyway: the burden of personal preference. Sometimes not a burden at all, but a revelation. Which one do I want? That one. So it shall be written, so it shall be done, and the ice-cream line can move along smoothly, because I’m not paralyzed over possible losses and missteps. Awesome! This coconut fudge sits just right in the deep nest of this waffle cones, and all is right with the world. Meanwhile, I’m so glad you’re enjoying your cup of orange sherbet with rainbow sprinkles.
But then, as we all know, that’s not the way it always pans out.
An email arrives. It is, I can tell, perfectly well-intentioned. And yet, it lands with a dull ache of I Don’t Like It. I can feel how it fails to meet my preferences. I can feel the hurt rising in myself. That’s not what I ordered. That’s not what I like. How dare she? But then: is there actually anything wrong with this situation? Not really. I am startled. I feel the truth of the hurt I experience, and I can sense the kind of work that would be required to address the email-sender, seek clarification, demand solace, etc. But what for? I can simply step aside, let it go by, and save the energy for something else. Like writing, or stitching fancy skulls onto my nurse hat. Like not doing anything, and letting the world remain undisturbed.
Seasonal disturbance is only disturbing if we have an idea of how things should be. That starts to sound wishy-washy and Yoda-like, but it’s actually fierce. Who do we think we are, to break the world? Who do we think we are, to harm souls, or to save them? Walking around without the burden of personal preference means sometimes we recognize there’s not a damn thing we can do about a situation. Meanwhile, right close, there’s something else we can affect, and should. I am lingering over the day’s report of governmental disturbances. Meanwhile, I really should be scheduling a mammogram, washing out the teapot, and getting back to work on my thesis. Choosing to orient towards disturbance makes sense when there’s some clear way to effect change, but at other times, it’s like refusing to notice all the ripening fruit, because that one weird-looking leaf over there seems more interesting.
Seasonal disturbance: the little green caterpillars and aphids arise on the roses that have never been super-happy, climbing on the trellis below the porch. I decided to Do Something. At the garden center are a whole array of poisons. Organic poisons! Old-fashioned poisons! Poisons never to get anywhere near your eyes, mouth, skin, or dogs. None of it sounds very good to me. I ask one of the employees, and she says she uses Systemic Poisons, but the store doesn’t stock these anymore. Wimps! Disappointed to leave the store poisonless, I walk away determined to shop for Systemic Poisons online. Which is how it comes to my attention that these are the self-same motherfuckers responsible for decimating bee populations. Which is more disturbing – some munched-on roses, or mass-killing of innocent pollinators? I find a garden wizard’s site, which recommends giving your roses a vigorous hose-down to dislodge creatures. I buy some giant fertilizer-suppositories and hammer them into the ground around the roses. Now the munching seems more like, OK, well, not my preference, but those roses aren’t the hardiest, and someone’s got to feed the aphids. I hose them down. In the immediate aftermath, they’re even sadder and more bedraggled, but by morning they look a bit perkier.
Seasonal disturbance is a tool for blaming the world. Seasonal disturbance is a way of alienating certain perfectly whole states. The state where all you can think about is soaking your feet in a bucket of hot water. The state where if you don’t find a river to jump in (or a potato chip) in the next 36 seconds, you are going to scream. The state where you honestly don’t give a fuck about anything, but a nap sounds nice. The state where everything has ended, and it’s impossible to know where-from anything new might arise. All, if unresisted and uncollapsed-into, no problem.
Seasonal disturbance. I refuse, actually, to sign on to the version of events where we are catapulting ourselves into oblivion. Who’s “we”? Awake awareness has been here since beginningless time, and no number of cow-farts or flights to Geneva can alter the fact that it will persevere. Will there be more Julie Püttgens? Choosing not to have children, I’ve declined certain versions of future personal preference. Spending time watching my dogs’ faces interpreting and scanning the world, I’ve let go of special preference for humans of any lineage. Awake awareness in the form of squirrels, as clouds, as sumac flowers ripening on their own wisdom, is fine with me. I refuse the disturbance of apocalypse-season, not because I don’t think humans are capable of destroying one another, but because I think it’s irrelevant. What Is, knows. I spend time in devotion to the ground of being, without fearing stories that make no sense on its terms.
The opposite of seasonal disturbance is seasonal exuberance. Inuberance? Not everything has to be yellow petals dancing in peals of sunlight. Beauty can be that huge, dead hemlock, suddenly sporting lacquered tree-ears. It can be the slow-moving orange efts waking up along the path. It can be the natural order of this body-mind, placing one word, then the next; one breath, then the next. Just like this.
Julie Püttgen is an artist and meditation teacher.
108 Names of now