Sometimes it’s been hard to tell up from down.

One of the joys of having a dog is the repetitive walks. Sure, we can take the high road, the middle road, the low double loop. But no matter how inventive the dog gets, we pass the same signposts again and again. We check the status of that house under construction, follow the blooming and calming of the gardens. There’s that place with the creepy yearround Halloween horror display.

One neighbor dresses up their front yard statue of a stag for different occasions. Shamrocks at St Patricks, stars and stripes on the 4th. When Betty White died there even an attempt at a Golden Girls outfit, a sweet tribute though the gray wig and bathrobe seemed a little dowdy for the character Rose and the sparkly Betty.

Not long ago the dog and I were headed by in the sleepy early mist, when I got a scare. The stag was wrapped in red, white, and silver. I felt a panic. Can it be Christmas already? Jesus! I am not ready. We are not ready, this cannot happen yet.

A closer look revealed that the little red and silver garlands were hearts, and the stag was celebrating Valentine’s Day, but I was shook up the rest of my walk. Am I so disoriented that I could imagine, even briefly, that the most stressful parenting holiday of the year could cycle back about 6 weeks later? I guess I am.

Our beautiful California weather doesn’t help. A cold snap, a heat wave, a succession of seasons not firmly tied to a calendar. Texas had fairly mild winters, but it was cold enough (and Summer hot as hell enough) that you could not possibly mistake Spring and Fall.

And of course the global pandemic has us all a bit discombobulated. And I’m grieving my dad’s passing. There are real reasons for feeling dizzy.

But it’s also the season of life I find myself in. The years go so fast. Passover and Easter will be here any second, and it feels like we just celebrated. The kids are speeding towards their adult selves. When they looked like little kids it was hard to imagine them becoming independent people, but in 5th and 9th grades, they are coming into focus. They still need us (reluctantly), but the distance back to when we became a family is longer than the sprint to college or whatever follows this “my house, my rules” phase of parenting. My day-to-day job description is more vague. I’m supposed to drive them places, but then they’re off. Some days I have more time on my hands. I’ll have to find my own path forward as they find theirs.

I recently read Katherine May’s lovely book Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times. She says that just as living things on earth have to hunker down when the snow piles up, we would be smart to take the “winter” seasons that come — times when out of nowhere something shakes up our life — and really burrow in, rest, and take stock so we’re restored when the next season comes.

May talks about how difficult it is to accept that we can so suddenly be derailed in life, how grief and change have to be let in bit by bit. “Some ideas are too big to take in once, and completely,” she says. “For me, this is one of them. Believing in the unpredictability of my place on this earth—radically and deeply accepting it to be true—is something I can do only in fits and starts.”

I guess it’s a season of readjustments for me here. What’s next, and who am I going to be? How can I prepare, in this inbetween time, for the life still to come?