The Turnover Cycle: The One Thing You Can Always Count On
Seasons have it. Lakes have it. Gardens have it. We have it.
After last week’s full moon, the air feels different. Summer has entered its late period. The light has become hazier and not as blinding as it seems in July. The colours have become richer and less washed out. Fall, though still a ways off, is approaching.
In one moment I am mourning the loss of summer days that slip by too fast. But this feeling is quickly abated by the on-coming comfort of fall, when everything begins to slow down and prepare itself for a long rest.
I’ve always been fascinated by the turnover cycle in lakes.
Throughout the summer, water within a lake becomes stratified into layers of different temperature and oxygen content, with the warmest and most oxygen rich layer being at the top. As fall approaches and the water on the surface begins to cool down and change in density, winds blowing across the lake will cause cool water at the bottom of the lake to be drawn upwards. The layers mix and the oxygen that accumulated at the top of the lake is pulled downwards to replenish the deprived bottom layer. In doing so, it allows fish to overwinter there. This is called the fall turnover cycle.
In spring, as ice melts from the surface of the lake, the dense cool melting water sinks to the bottom, creating yet another mixing of water layers. This phenomenon is known as the spring turnover cycle.
In intensive farming, the turnover of garden beds can happen a few times during a season.
You plant an early season cold crop like peas. You tend to them during the often unpredictable spring weather and hope for a good yield. It seems like things are taking forever to reach maturity and then suddenly you’re scrambling to get everything picked in time before it becomes overgrown.
Before you know it, you’re ripping the plants out and seeding a summer crop like carrots. The cycle continues. You worry about getting them enough water during the dry hot days. It seems like they’re taking forever to germinate and then suddenly one day you pull a full carrot out of the ground.
Next, you’ve ripped them all out and you’re planting another cold hardy crop for the fall. This intensive nature makes for a very hectic season as you scramble to keep up with a constantly shifting garden. However, it gives you a lot more bang for your buck in terms of yield, and in some cases it allows you to make adjustments for any crop failures more quickly if need be.
Within our minds, we also go through turnover cycles.
We learn something about ourselves, those close to us, or the world. We gain a new perspective. We acclimatize to it. Akin to the lake, our emotions settle and stratify according to this new perspective.
We think we have a grip on things until a different situation comes along and everything shifts. Once again, we are humbled by what we don’t know. In this way, we go through cycles of knowing and unknowing; of defeat and accepting defeat; of seeding, outgrowing and re-seeding our perspective.
The tricky part is appreciating the cycles for what they are.
A friend of my dad’s said to him once, we have to be rivers not dams. I took this as meaning you have to let moments flow through you rather than get dammed up by resisting the outcome. In a similar sense, we have to be lakes not stagnant bodies of water; to accept the upheaval that comes over us every now and then, and understand its role in rejuvenating our thinking and understanding of the world.
So when you find yourself in a situation where life feels upside down, mundane or stressful, take comfort in knowing you can always count on the winds of change to blow into your life and stir everything up. If what you attempted to grow doesn’t yield good results, rip it out, sow new seeds and carry on.