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     Volume 7 Issue 34 | August 22, 2008 |

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A Roman Column

The Winds of Change

Neeman Sobhan

For a long time, this phrase, 'the winds of change' was just that to me. It was a metaphorical phrase. But now, as I live more in tune with nature, and in a world like Italy where nature's cycles are more clearly defined into seasons, I am beginning to understand the source and origin of this phrase.

Yesterday was 15th of August, which in Italy is Ferragosto (the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin) and a holiday. But for weather watchers this is the day when summer subtly but surely changes its course. Everyone says that from this day summer is on the wane, and the advent of autumn is imminent. And yesterday, as I stood watching the afternoon sun wilt and the sky take on a sulky expression, I realised I was observing nature's transformation before my eyes and under my very skin. Change was in the air, in the sudden fall of temperature and yes, in the wind, hefty gusts of which sprang from nowhere.

Just a few hours ago we were at the height of summer's blazing heat and now I stood under a grave sky, hugging my bare arms for warmth and watching the pine trees in my garden buffeted by ...the Winds of Change. The noisy wind blew pine needles and papery bougainvillea blossoms into the house; it huffed and it puffed over the tiled roofs making the shutters and windows rattle; it bent the line of cypresses, tousling the flowering bushes beneath; it threw chair cushions to far corners of the terrace; and as I faced its onslaught like a sailor at the deck, it flung the crisp smell of winter into my face like a spray of chill sea foam. Yes, the seasonal winds of change had arrived.

I never fail to be amazed at how nature works like clockwork here in Italy. Today, as I opened the doors to the terrace and walked out to greet the day, in spite of the sunshine, I could feel that summer is over. For the briefest moment I was almost sad that I hadn't had enough of the lazy summer days, and with too many visitors, distractions and domestic obligations I hadn't done all the dreaming, reading and writing that I had wanted to, but somehow I couldn't be sad in the face of the other promises that the day brought in its transformation.

There was a shift of energy in the air. The light had a different clarity and the heat had changed from heaviness to briskness. I drew in a long breath of this new moment, this newness, and felt alive in a different way. It was as if the winds of change were also in me, changing me, ever so slightly but definitely.


All of us are apprehensive of change. Some are even afraid of it. But a faith in the essential wholeness and goodness of life, or in oneself, should help us overcome any upheavals that seem to attend the start of a change. Later, one often sees how the bigger picture reveals the essential wisdom of that ubiquitous and universal intelligence or spiritual and life force that governs not only the natural world but guides and protects our well being. The secret to approaching change with joy, I feel, is in acceptance: the faith that all will be well no matter what.

I find hope and happiness in every season, and I discover inspirational messages hidden in nature. “What will September bring?” I asked myself while sipping my morning tea. Then later, scissors in hand, as I started to snip the withered heads of geraniums and other flowers on my terrace, I encountered the wisdom and answers that were always there, both in the plants and in my own heart. It happened like this. The totally dried out flowers were of course easy to spot and eliminate. But I hesitated over the half-dead flowers that still had petals and brought colour to my terrace garden, albeit a faded one. Leaving the flowers intact meant postponing deadheading till tomorrow, delaying change, trying to hold on to the precarious beauty another day. I decided to cut one large head of geranium, which was still crimson, but in a dehydrated way. As I snipped it off, I saw two tiny buds that were hidden and eclipsed from the sun by the over-blown and now chopped flower head. These new buds would never have seen the light of the sun and thus have no chance to bloom unless the dying flowers were removed.

I started with gusto to cut down other flowers that I felt had seen their best days. The plants looked denuded, but I knew they were renewed, because all the new buds were now exposed to the sun and would flower by the next day. There were innumerable tiny pods of life hidden under the dying leaves, too. Looking at these miniscule parcels of potential life full of unexpressed colour, and beauty, I thought of all the unexplored options, the hidden and missed opportunities in our world that go unseen when we refuse to make change, let something go, or look at hidden parts of our lives and selves.

I told myself: clear out the old and unchanging; embrace change and newness fearlessly, confidently. If the old is good for you, it will remain in your life or reappear in other forms. But the new, like a changed season might bring new joy, new energy, new life.


An old friend is visiting. We brought up our children together. She has now moved away but is back for a few days with her children, who are now scattered all over the world, in their own lives with their own relationships , careers and cares. This is their family reunion and last night we were all sitting at dinner--- old friends reminiscing and re-bonding.

“Nothing like old friendship,” She said. In our hearts, we are aware that the winds of change have rustled through us but our shared memories create a comfort zone out of our friendship. We accept each other's transformations, knowing that we will still be friends. But as we lift pasta from each other's plates, she says with a certain regret that she cannot hide, “The children have changed so much.”

“You mean they are no longer your children!” I smile. “Let them go, let them change. They won't drift very far. Nothing is lost that is part of Natures order, and relationships built on biology, love or truth are natural. Change is also natural. Don't be afraid.” I say this as much to myself as to her.

Suddenly my friend's daughter who had been distracted all evening turns from her new husband and hugs me, “Auntie, you hardly change. Please stay as you are, always. You and mummy and your friendship, that's my home.”

I am delighted. The changes in my deeper self are as subtle as the weather- shift of yesterday from high summer to end of summer and thus not apparent to others; while the changes in my friend's daughter are only apparent because they are like the grand seasonal transformations from summer to winter. But personal growth, friendships and relationships when built on truth and trust are like ones larger Self observing the natural world of summer changing into autumn without being concerned. Isn't that what spiritual wisdom consists of---a Soul's knowledge and faith that the winds of change can huff and puff all they want but they cannot blow the house in?

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