~ SPRING ~
Seasons of life, like seasons of the earth flow predictably, though not necessarily peacefully, one to the other. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. There are seasons in life that souls, like the sun, must fatefully rise to meet whether they want to or not. There are circumstances that blow in on the wind and leave the landscape lastingly changed; sometimes for better, sometimes for worse, and sometimes like a sweet spring breeze, simply marked for the memory of it all. What has been will be again, what was done will be done again. Every season has its own notable nuances and yet there is nothing truly new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new.”? It was here already, long ago. No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.
Maybe there is nothing new under the sun. Maybe all life, all story, all seasons are simply recycled from what once was. But within the cycle of same there is a season of new that always, inevitably comes. Like blossoms on orange trees after the visit of bumbling spring bees, something new always comes. There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. There is a time when one must say goodbye to the old, dead and lifeless things of the past and greet new life and new experiences.
The time is spring. The season is new. Leaves, small, weak and timid at first, slowly stretch, reach and eventually emerge on the branches of their host. The temperature warms and daylight dawns earlier and lingers longer. They know not of the leaves and seasons before them, only that this is their life, their flower, their season to be fruitful. The bees buzz, the flowers bud and the leaves grow and explode into a springtime eruption of of lush, lively color that beautify and nourish the world.
It is in the springtime seasons of life that souls shed what once was, that dreams melt away and make way for new life. It is a time to be born and a time to die, it is a time to weep and a time to laugh, it is a time to search and a time to give up. It is in this strange season of new life and letting go that a sum of certain souls find themselves inexplicably intertwining. It is in the springtimes of their lives that this story begins….
~ SUMMER ~
Summer waxes hot and long in Central Washington parts and in sullen or smitten hearts. So hot it dries sticks and logs and grass until everything is ready and waiting to burst forth in fury and fire and flame. So long that everyone wonders if the heat will let up before a ground fire ignites the forest. Summertime on The Big Y is also known as fire season. Arid and dry, the threat of forest fire weighs heavy on the minds of ranchers, orchardists and residents alike. After every thunder and lightening storm wary eyes watch the horizon for the slightest hint, the faintest sign of smoke. Ranch hands scour the acreage for sleepers, the kind of fires that smolder in the needles for days or weeks after a strike before popping up and wasting countless acres of land.
As much as man fears the flame, he knows it also serves a purpose. Sometimes some fire is good. A scorching purification of the land, clearing out that which can erupt into a raging firestorm if not burned off gradually. What’s more, some seeds actually need the heat to come alive, to sprout and grow. Still the imminent danger that any summer fire can develop into something too large and unmanageable and devastate and destroy the land keeps all on edge. One spark lit on the dry grass of desperation or ember felled onto a heart of hope deferred and a firestorm may ensue. Once lit, field, forest or the fiery spirit of man can rage until there’s nothing more to consume, until all that’s left are charred remains and devastation.
It starts so small. A sneaky, low-flying fragment fallen to the ground still hot. At first nothing more than a hint of smoke, the impression that something more immense might emerge. It smolders; simmering, lurking, laying, ready for the right wind to blow in and set ablaze the fury waiting to ignite. Then the light and the heat will rage, demanding and devouring all that there is, filling the air full of foul fumes and insufferable smoke. The same heat that makes the coldest of nights more manageable, the same light that illuminates the darkest path, can utterly destroy, land, life or a dream. Summer simmers all the things that can take the idea of danger and make it real with all the things that life needs to thrive. Sometimes the fire smolders, sparks and sets the hearts and souls of men ablaze, to purify and cleanse, to bring seed to life, or to rage and ravage anything in its path...
~ FALL ~
With the coming of autumn to the Big Y Ranch comes also a grand and glorious battle between the living and that which will soon lay down to rest or to die. Some call it a miracle of transition, this shushing of the earth to sleep. Like a child resisting rest, the lively earth wages a futile war against its mother, Nature and father, Time. There is no hope and no way to stop that which must come to the animals and acres. The Big Y ranch spans eleven hundred acres of hearty and robust Cascade Mountain foothills, meadows and plateaus in Central Washington. A world unto itself. Nestled into the heart of the Pacific Northwest, the area is known for its sharp seasonal contrasts as much as it is for its orchards and apples, pears, cherries and wildlife. If spring is the season that takes the world from death to new life, and ushers in the warmth and vitality of summer, autumn is its inverse counterpart. The season comes to pull the world away from heat, light and life toward the dark, bone-chilling days of winter. The ranch knows well the turning of the seasons and of all of them, rages against the dimming of the light, the coming of the fall the most.
The splendor of summer shakes itself off, stripping away the layers of bounty and beauty, leaving the world with hardly a trace of what once was. Naked trees rob the animals of fall of their easy camouflaged covering. That which once fed on the summer’s nourishment become the hunter’s prey as a bounty of a different kind is stealthily sought. The calendar marks the days and the ranch fills with eager sportsmen, looking to fill their tags and claim their trophies. There is a time for everything, a time to live and a time to die. Dying comes to the ranch with raucous celebration of sought after rewards. Maybe there is nothing more to the melancholy season than one lost battle after another. Or maybe it’s simply nature’s reminder that all things change and all things die. Nothing, no matter how glorious or grotesque, will remain forever, save God. As the leaves fall to the earth, as the animals fall to the ground, as the fires finally take their rest and die out, so everything that has breath will come to an end. Not all change is fresh and new. Not all death is mourned.
And so their stories, like the land and the leaves, transition; each life losing and letting go of what once was whether they want to or not…
~ WINTER ~
Within the snow blown acres of the Big Y Ranch, winter’s wonder abounds. Furry ground squirrels that scurried to store their stashes all summer long, chirp, chirp a comical alarm if anyone or anything ventures too close to their secret stores. Little brown snowshoe hares slough off their earthen coats in exchange for white ones in time to blend in to their new white world. Still cautious and careful, they forage for the fruits and berries that refused to be taken to the ground at season’s change. Always at the ready, they flee with lightning quickness from hungry predators not prone to hibernation. Their scuttle, like the flutter of winter birds’ wings, is muted by the snow’s acoustical magic. Needing no camouflage from the hungry coyotes, the big, burly bison bundle up inside dark woolly undercoats that began to grow in timely response to the first of autumn’s winds. Neither the coyote, nor the cold will be their undoing.
Even more than the animals, the land itself sings a wonderful winter song. Snow falls in the night or from white day-light skies. A frigid frozen glitter shaken out onto everything that once was, covering it and making it clean. Its weight blankets the land shushing and settling the madness of autumn’s melee. Its covering puts the confusion and chaos of change to rest. The ragged, ravaged worn out land becomes a bare and blank canvas that, when painted by the sun, flashes its cold, quiet glory in a million pinpoints of splendid sparkling light. A landscape that ought to be dreary and dead bursts forth in beautiful brilliance.
In spite of autumn’s assault and despite the darkness of winter there is yet hope. Winter is unmistakably an end, but also a promise of a fresh start. Once the old has been cleansed, purified and washed with white snow, the days begin to stretch themselves awake earlier and earlier. The sleeping things rouse and rise up from their rest. The cycle begins again. All the hushed wonders of winter promise that though everything changes and every living thing eventually comes to an end, all ends are not necessarily bad, and life still finds a way even in the darkest, coldest of nights.
It was in the dark and dismal, yet hopeful winter of 2014 that the souls aforementioned in the preceding seasons finally collided. Their paths, already crossed, suddenly intertwined and fused together. On this night the time was right and the season was upon them to begin to understand the unanswered questions, to walk out of the past and to look into a future that could bring the hope and healing each of them craved. And the night went something like this…
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