Seasonal Changes


September 10, 2015 by Jean

seasonal changes rhododendronI grew up in southern New England, where there are four distinct seasons (spring, summer, fall and winter), each with its own special pleasures and associations. The transition from summer to fall was always especially magical to me. I found the end of summer heat and the arrival of crisp, cool fall air physically invigorating. And, for a child who loved school, the association of this seasonal change with the beginning of a new school year made it a time for intellectual stimulation and the excitement of new beginnings.

Because I spent most of my life in school, my social life was also seasonal, ebbing and flowing to adjust to the workload of the academic year. When I was in graduate school, a long-distance friend once wrote me that, although no longer in school herself, she always knew it was fall when I dropped out of sight and summer when I resurfaced in her life.

A year ago, in my first year of retirement, I barely noticed the transition to fall or the beginning of school because I was so immersed in the chaos and stress of house construction. I remember meeting my friend Anne for a lunchtime event at a local college one day and being startled to realize that students were back on campus. August had turned into September without my noticing. This year has been very different. For one thing, I’ve been very aware of the start of school. And after my busy August social calendar, Labor Day has brought a welcome week at home with no social engagements. Once again, the rhythms of my life seem to be synced to the rhythms of the school year.

In part, this is because I’m going back to school myself this fall; my Senior College course begins in less than two weeks. This week, I’ve been getting back into the pattern I abandoned during the summer, of mornings devoted to scholarly reading and writing and afternoons for projects like cleaning house or working on course preparation. Although I enjoyed the social whirl of summer, I’m also enjoying the sense of productivity that this structure imparts to my day. As I settle into my retirement, I’m beginning to understand that my life will still have the seasonal rhythms I have always loved, albeit in different forms.

The four seasons are often used as a metaphor for the stages of life. In that scenario, the transition from working to retirement is probably analogous to the seasonal change from summer to fall. Given my lifelong associations with that seasonal shift, it’s probably not surprising that I see this as a stage of life characterized by excitement and new beginnings. In both the annual sense and the life stage sense, I’m happy to see the arrival of fall.

7 thoughts on “Seasonal Changes

  1. Diana Studer says:

    this is the Senior College course you’ll be teaching?
    Going to be hugely rewarding for both you and your learners (or vice versa if I’ve got it wrong)

    • Jean says:

      Diana, Yes, this is the course I’ll be teaching. It’s called “True Womanhood and Women’s Activism in 19th Century America” and is a more focused piece of a women’s studies course I taught for many years at Gettysburg College. If this works out, my hope is to teach a Senior College course each fall and take one each spring. (I will get free membership and one course tuition in exchange for volunteering to teach.)

  2. Jean R says:

    Your course sounds interesting, and one I would enjoy taking. I think you will enjoy this teaching experience because there will less pressure. At least in my Ollie classes it seemed that way for both the ‘retired’ professors and we students. No tests, no one making anyone be there who wasn’t passionate about learning for pleasure.

    I would not like living in a place where the seasonal changes didn’t take place or were so mild you hardly notice them. Though fall was never my favorite for many reasons and nothing to do with school except that we had to move into town after living the summer at the lake. My entire life I always missed the first two weeks of school because I was severely allergic to a certain pollen that left me with runny blisters and my eyes swollen shut. I outgrew that after after 30 years and staying out of the country in the fall, but my fall marker is hearing the high school bands practice. I’ve always lived close enough to hear them before school actually starts each year.

    • Jean says:

      Jean, Those allergies sound terrible; I’m glad you outgrew them. I’m looking forward to the Senior College course — but with some trepidation. One big change for me is that I’ll have to lecture much more than I would like to. My teaching approach has always been mostly discussion-based, but that depended on assigning lots of reading that we could then discuss in class. Although I hope to have about an hour of discussion each week in my Senior College course, it wouldn’t be appropriate in this setting to assign lots of reading, so I’ll have to spend the first half of each class presenting information and ideas that we can then discuss in the second half. We’ll see how it works. Those lectures are going to require a lot of preparation.

  3. Melanie says:

    Thank you for sharing those feelings, Jean, so well articulated and so very resonant.

  4. I relate my retirement to fall…I have yet to find my next steps, but my time to notice the seasons and seasonal shifts has been well spent….if I go back to school it will be in an art class I think.

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I am Jean Potuchek, a professional sociologist who has just stepped into the next phase of my life, retirement, after more than thirty years of college teaching. This blog is about my experience of that new phase of life.

Please join me as I step into my future.

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