”Before you marry a girl, you need to know her through all the seasons.” — Liz Steen

My daddy was a wonderful gardener. When I go to the grocery today, I notice there are times I see items I know wouldn’t have been things he would have grown at that time of the year, yet there they are in the produce bins.

Lured by their good looks, I’ve sometimes purchased those items, and their flavor was almost always disappointing. Knowing what grows in what season where you live can save your taste buds a lot of heartache.

I learned a lot about life from my father through the gardening lessons, and it seems my husband learned a few from his mother. After all, when Liz Steen said you needed to know a person through all the seasons before you decide they’re the right person, it was in hopes of saving a fella from a lot of heartache. Seasons in the garden and in life are worth paying attention to.

We had dated for several months, and I knew he was the guy I would marry. “Let’s just get on with it,” I thought. But he had other thoughts based on the advice of his mother, who had died before I came along. She had advised him to know a girl through all four seasons because personalities change during the year.

So, we had dated for about a year when he proposed (the fans from the Georgia-Vanderbilt basketball game interrupted an otherwise romantic evening), and we set the date for six months later. At the time, I thought it was really silly to wait, but today I understand what she meant, and I would add to her wisdom that you (and I) need to allow for others and yourself to be a little different in each season — of the year and of life.

The seasons of the year bring out different things in each of us. I love a beautiful snow, but I don’t like to be cold. When the heat of summer rolls around, I don’t love being a sweaty mess, but I am so happy to not be cold. I love the colors of fall and the idea of hibernating and allowing for a period of rest, but I also know that when fall arrives, it means winter is just around the corner (I don’t like to be cold). Spring brings beautiful colors, too, and it brings a sense of growth and new life, and I know warmer weather will be here soon.

Many of my friends feel much differently than I do about the heat and the cold, and that’s my best reminder that we don’t have to be just alike to be good friends. We look at the seasons differently. I wonder what your favorite season is.

The seasons of life definitely bring out different things in each of us, and I’m pretty sure my husband would say that he’s glad he had seen several sides of me before we married because it’s lessened his surprise at the twists and turns over the past 34 years. But it is seeing our own seasons that should remind us to be understanding and accepting of others’ seasons.

For the sake of my own thinking, I’ve decided there are roughly 4-6 seasons. Some folks will never marry or partner with another person, some people will marry and never have children, and some might have children who for several reasons need to stay in their home, and they never experience an empty nest. If we live long enough, we all deal with the season of aging — in our parents and in ourselves.

Here are my suggested seasons:

• Young

• Single

• Married

• Parenting

• Empty Nest

• Aging

Thinking of the garden and the seasons, I find it fairly easy to draw some correlations. It takes a few seasons for some fruits and vegetables to produce for a harvest, for instance, and younger veggies (squash and asparagus, for example) are delicious and tender, while the older items left on the vine too long are huge, seedy, and really tough. People are a lot like that, don’t you think?

The young person is typically more tender, as they haven’t weathered so many storms as the person who is finally experiencing an empty nest and might be a bit tougher for all the storms they’ve experienced. Those young people might be a little cocky and sure they can change the world, and many times, they do.

The rest of us might be tempted to roll our eyes or laugh a little at their enthusiasm or naivete, but we would be better humans if we acknowledge their season of youth and encourage them to follow their dreams, take risks, and enjoy adventures. Why don’t we do a better job of encouraging them to embrace the season they are in?

Whether you are in your 20s or your 50s if you decide to marry (partner), it’s a whole new season. Learning the other person’s habits and hopes, relinquishing some of the control you’ve thought you had, and considering another person’s needs in addition to your own are all parts of this season. Discovering someone else likes to till the soil, while you’ve always been a no-till gardener means listening to their thoughts and finding places you realize doing things your way isn’t always important.

And kids. For those who never have children, by choice or not, you have your own ebbing and flowing, but for those who decide to have a family, that season is one full of weeding, watering, tending, and harvesting (in no particular order). It’s really a different season, and for us it was a really nice part of the gardening, I mean family, adventure.

You work, maybe you marry and maybe you have kids, and then you retire (or maybe you just keep working), and all along the way, you have to make adjustments based on the season.

As my mother-in-law said, people are different in each season. She never made it to the season in which her sister now finds herself, and I think it might be the toughest season of all. Like a child in many ways, yet having weathered so many storms, she struggles to understand why she is where she is in this dementia riddled season of her life.

Grace. That’s what it’s all about. Showing grace to others as they experience life’s seasons, and showing grace to yourself. Know your season and what might make it easier to navigate. There are seasons for growing, seasons for resting, and seasons for producing a bumper crop. I’ll encourage you to approach life as a gardener approaches his plot of land and find value in each season.

And if you’re a gardener, I’d like to know your tips!

Susan Black Steen is a writer and photographer, a native Tennessean and a graduate of Austin Peay State University. With a firm belief that words matter, she writes and speaks to bring joy, comfort and understanding into each life. Always, she writes from her heart in hopes of speaking to the hearts of others. She can be reached at stories@susanbsteen.com.

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