Alannah is a recent graduate from the University of Wyoming with backgrounds in environmentalism, international studies, photography and cooking. She is passionate about the intersections of her interests and continuously finds value in deeper explorations into the connections that weave us and our environments together. Alannah is currently traveling the West Coast, exploring new places and herself. She hopes to share her journey, healing, questions and connections with readers here and beyond!
Learning from Seasons
Each season is packed with natural beauty and applied symbolism as plants follow their natural rhythms of survival. Seasons are not defined by dates in a calendar, though we try. They are defined by massive, cosmic happenings that change the amount of light, of warmth, of energy received by each particular being in each area of the world.
Seasons are relative to their geographic area. Seasons signify change.
I am currently in the midst of my first real fall. When the leaves started changing a month ago I savored that week. I’m used to fall lasting about two weeks as Wyoming’s winter is always in a rush to arrive and lingers long past its welcome. In the Pacific Northwest, fall lingers and expands and takes its sweet time. It’s now a month later, and I am still driving through tunnels of trees, each with leaves painted different colors.
I have never quite been held by change this way; both from the season surrounding me and in my life. I’m starting to realize that it’s okay for change to take time, it’s okay to let the aspects that used to define me strike out in a final display of beauty as they fall away. It’s okay for this change to be gradual.
In the months that I have been traveling I have learned and grown, but moreover I have rested and unlearned. Years of conditioning have been hard to break as I teach myself new ways of being. Unlearning takes curiosity and vulnerability. It has taken courage to be kind to myself, to savor slow mornings and afternoons spent reading. I have begun to allow myself to settle, to truly breathe in everyday life rather than finding rest confined by the walls of a vacation. Unlearning the mindset of constant movement has changed the base energy that I operate from. A micro example of this major shift found me when I was walking my dog:
One of the only defined aspects of my current life are regular walks with my corgi and whatever dogs I am watching that week. These walks are usually filled with shoulder workouts, unweaving tangled leashes, picking up so much poop, and hours of movement. Last week me and my crew, my corgi and a poodle, were walking on the beach along an estuary, where the Necanicum River meets the ocean. I grew to love this spot, especially right after I turned the corner of the beach by the ocean and started walking towards the river.
The river is still brackish, with clams and sand dollar skeletons lining the boundaries. It still occasionally has waves and abides by the tide. The river seems still, especially compared to the rhythmic barrage of waves just to the left. I spent hours sitting on giant logs that had washed ashore on the river side of the estuary watching the point where the waves fade out, becoming the river. It fascinated me that there was such a defined point where I thought I could reasonably say one ended and the other began.
In the middle of a rainstorm one day I decided I simply had to join the dogs and swim in the river, the fact that I was in jeans and extremely ill equipped for a swim did not deter me. I waded in a bit, then decided if I was going to swim I had to commit and dove in. As the shock of the cold washed over me, I stood up, eye wide and breathless. As the water dripped out of my hair and down my face it tasted like ocean water.
For me, there’s something different about the sweet softness of salt water. The place I chose to swim in had still water, to me, it was a river. I tried to keep the dogs out of the water until that point so my short legged dog didn’t get swept out to sea. It was far past the point I would have said that the ocean stopped and the river began, yet the water was the same.
Change is gradual. Change is most often unseen, shifting under the surface.
Accepting the Cycle
Chasing change has left me searching for the point on the surface where I can see my old life end and my new life start. Countless days, I wake up hoping, praying, convincing myself that this is the day I change. I can point to a few days on the calendar where major change has happened, either in decisions I’ve made about my future or turning points where I redefine how I see myself and hold myself. I have had these big “aha” moments, the settling out of ripples on the surface, the shift to stillness at a singular point. More often, I have had massive, slow integrations, like the salt water that continues to travel under the still surface. I am changing in ways I don’t think I can fully comprehend yet.
One of the most powerful realizations I have had in this personal fall, or personal estuary I suppose, has been realizing and holding space for what is to come; my personal winter. I recently made the decision to return to school next year, breaking the vow I had made to stay away from education for years.
Back in July, I stumbled upon a pamphlet for a culinary school on the coast of Oregon as I was throwing away old college mail. I decided to tour the culinary school and the community college it is part of during my travels. The apprehension that had built during my drive through the town slowly dissipated throughout my tour and later in the day as I practiced with the volleyball team, another event that seemed to just find me.
On campus, I felt alive at the possibility of returning both to school to chase a passion of mine and to sports, a field that I never truly had the chance to excel at since I was an extremely late bloomer. After two days in Coos Bay, soaking in the excitement it was time to get back on the road, diving back into the complexities of self-discovery and house sitting.
Weeks came and passed, adventures filling my schedule until a month later, I had to decide if I wanted a spot on that team and in that program. Through reflecting and imagining what a potential future there might look like, I realized that this felt like a next step that fit with who I am becoming. Committing to a year filled with culinary school, volleyball practice, weight lifting, and training to be a track athlete in the spring, potentially doing the heptathlon, seemed like committing to fall right back into the lifestyle of constant movement I am just breaking out of.
Choosing a Wyoming Winter
As I started to wrestle with the fear of the choice I just made I began to look at it as an opportunity to integrate the lessons I am learning this year into a busy lifestyle. I also began to realize that I want to truly make the most out of this opportunity. I want to choose it as much as it chose me. In making this intentional choice, I am committing to a season much different from the one I am in.
As I look at this future as a distant horizon, I am realizing that it might be a Wyoming winter. My change will fade from being spectacularly flashy, boasting vibrant reds and comforting yellows, and instead be contained in the consistency of defined days, in the constant haze of an occasionally dreary climate.
I want to make the most of this experience; to use the second chance at organized sports to see what I can do when I truly commit myself to the entire process. This takes commitment that isn’t flashy like fall leaves, it’s cold and quiet and sometimes feels eternal. While I can’t, and really don’t want to, determine what that year will truly look like, as I consider the step in front of me, the start of training and changing my nutrition, I realize that I am committing to walk into the Wyoming winter of my seasons. I am making peace with the fact that this commitment will be deep and difficult and consuming.
I also know the beauty of the moments of stillness that arise in Wyoming winters. Some of my favorite memories of those difficult seasons in the past have been the days when the wind stops and glimpses of sunlight catch glistening snowflakes that fall on my face, reminding me of the power of varied experience, of cold and heat, of commitment and change. Wyoming winters are exceptionally effective at helping you realize the power of sunlight, the power of remembering the warmth to come and the warmth that already graced your skin in seasons past.
I truly believe that as I commit to a season of steady change, these spectacular moments of arrival will continue to find me in the breakthrough sunny days.
Understanding the Cycles
The seasons are beautiful, powerful and cyclical. One of the most powerful realizations I have made as my world has grown has been understanding that the season I am standing in will end and that it is also not the season being experienced by everyone. On the other side of the world people are immersed in the sun even as I am driving through blizzards. Extending that realization to personal seasons has been even more powerful.
As I navigate my season of change, someone else might be immersed in the joy of new growth, of stepping into healing. Our seasons are based not on a calendar or an age, though we might try to force them into certain years. Our seasons are based on our own cosmic systems, on our own stories and journeys and there has been such power for me in letting those seasons flow and cycle.
I am learning to love the fall I am in, especially loving the beauty in knowing that it will end. I am gearing up for new paces, new experiences and working to engrain the deep knowing that none of these cycles are ever permanent. Most of all, I am so excited to see what season will find me and what aspects of nature’s seasons will continue to resonate with each stage of my lived experiences.