Wedged in between the pristine beauty of winter and the glory of spring is a time that we in New England like to call Mud Season. Gone is the white beauty of snow; the bursts of life and color have yet to make themselves known. The brisk excitement of winter has become wearying, and the promise of spring is just out of reach. Folks in Seminary or other places of high learning might call this liminal time – that sense of being between the “already and not yet,” that weird restless feeling when you wonder, isn’t there more? I call it brown time.
In the way that the liturgical calendar mirrors nature (or is it the other way around?) Lent often falls during Mud Season. Lent, if you never have experienced it in your church or personal life, is the forty days before Easter. A time of “being in the wilderness” (like Jesus did, before his suffering and death), a time of fasting and praying, a time of stripping down, Lent whispers to us. When ashes are imposed upon your forehead, a tangible reminder that you are but dust, there’s a holy invitation to contemplate your mortality. It’s not a particularly beautiful time, at least in the traditional sense. It has this…brown quality to it.
Outside my windows these days, all I can see is brown. Everywhere brown: tree limbs, dead grass, mud, poop (probably), sticks, brown houses even. I can’t help but sigh a little and wish for…something different. It’s a brown feeling.
I’ve been here before, in a season of brown. Doesn’t seem like you can be human for very long and not. One lesson recently stamped on my heart and is slowly being retraced, bit by painful bit: each season offers us a gift.* But we have to look for it, have to see it. We have to ask a different question.
Instead of ‘When will this season end?’ or even ‘What’s the purpose of this (dreadful) season?’ what if I embraced the season? What if I turned my longing for something else into an attempt to see the brown? What if I, in essence, made friends with brown?
How on earth does one do that?
I’m certainly not the first to ask that question or undertake that journey. From Hildegard of Bigen to Carl Jung, from St. Ignatius to Mumford & Sons, humans have been attempting to find and define their inner lives.
I decided to give myself an assignment, as a way of approaching the question. How do I become friends with brown? I decided to start by going on a walk – and capture BROWN with my camera. Literally try to see the shapes, shades and textures of the brown in my life.
The task seemed straightforward: after seeing my neighborhood with (hopefully) new eyes, I’d review the photos and (again, hopefully) shift the view that seemed so boring from my window. One blog post should do the trick, I naively thought, to highlight a few photos and share seemingly random insights.
But the moment I began scrolling through the images on my computer, I realized: there is something here is wide and deep that needs exploring. And so, I invite you join me as I share about my journey toward brown. View the images offered and see if there is a gift just for you.
*Mark Buchanan’s Spiritual Rhythms is a fantastic read on this topic.