A year to slow down

A week more of summer, and then the new year.

I’ve always felt inside that autumn should be the first season, but I’ve dismissed the feeling as school-year conditioning or the product of my love for Yom Kippur.

Fiona Robyn’s new book, A Year of Questions: How To Slow Down and Fall in Love with Life, helped me understand what I may have sensed all along at some level.  The seasons model a soul’s progression, and the soul’s journey starts in something like an autumn.

Fiona’s book is like that: it’s full of realizations that seem to come from within me and not from her.  Fiona is a therapist, and her book is good therapy.

We prepare in autumn.  We clear space, we start to take care of ourselves, and we let ourselves become curious.  Curiosity helps us find out who we are, Fiona concludes.  Winter is the hard side of transformation, when we learn solitude and face our fears.  Spring puts self-discovery into action.  We take risks based on what we’ve learned about ourselves.  Summer is life at its fullest.  We learn to slow down and to live in the present.

Each of the book’s seasons has three monthly themes and thirteen weekly emphases.  A week may be a tribute to a disc jockey who selects music he really wants to share or a story about gifts of a meal and flowers that reminded her of how easy it is to reach out to others.  Each week has questions for reflection, suggestions for activities, and thought-provoking quotes.

Fiona is a poet as well as a therapist, and A Year of Questions mixes a poet’s delight in language, story, and irony with a good therapist’s sympathy, guidance, and light touch.

[picture]Fiona’s language moves from the general to the gentle, from the abstract to the image that captures an idea for both the head and the heart.  I’ve skipped to week 43 (I think she understands readers who ignore her chronological format).  For that week, Fiona introduces us to Dave, who has been gardening for 63 years.  Dave has never made much money, and almost no one understands what skill and labor is required for him to maintain the private gardens for his employers.  But she concludes:

He works because he loves to.  Because he’s still learning.  Because he has high standards and takes pride in seeing the results.  Because a robin has recently taken to perching on his wheelbarrow and getting a free ride.

Fiona’s writing is at once grounded, imaginative, humorous, gentle, and gracious.  She’s never above her reader.  She’s open about her own struggles, but she’s never self-deprecating. Even her acknowledgements are a work of art and examples of real gratitude. Her book’s presentation and writing style is as peaceful and joyous as its content.