It’s cloudy, blustery and chilly today. Even the brilliant yellow of the fall Gingkos isn’t warming me up (though they are stunning against the gray skies). Our lingering Indian Summer has disappeared. (Ok, it’s supposed to get warm again in the next couple of days… the vagaries of greenhouse weather.) But today the wind bites, the cold settles unwelcomed and uncomfortable in our bodies, and the change feels just too much. For those of us who love summer, it can be hard to say goodbye. And as I get older, this time of year makes remember that with every passing summer, there will be one less season of the warm sun on my skin.
The autumn wind is impatient, as if it can’t wait for the slow and gradual disappearance of flowers and leaves: it has to add its force to get the job done. The cold rain of November has a similar effect. When I was a child, the first snow flakes would ALWAYS fall (but not stick) as we were driving to my Aunt Judy’s house in western Missouri for Thanksgiving. The increasing power of the elements are thrown in relief by the exhaustion of the plant kingdom all around us: having given its all through a long, productive growing season, it now needs to rest… and falls into a nap. Much of life around us seems to be running down.
I don’t think it’s just me being morose as the leaves are tread under foot. Autumn is a season full of evidences of fading. And of withdrawal… as I notice a V of geese outside my office over the Mint window honking their way south. What was thriving and teaming with life, if only for a last hurrah, a few weeks ago, hopefully has fulfilled itself, because now it’s wilted and withering, fading, falling back into the shadows. Night is coming so early these days. There is, for me, in fall, some of the stillness of death (that I don’t even sense in brisk coldness of winter).
Quickly we must finish the harvest, gathering in the produce of summer for the fallow period ahead. We store up the abundance and the resources for nourishment to see us through, to sustain life.
It occurs to me: our hearts are storehouses in a similar way– where we harvest and gather in and store up the abundance and nourishment of our warmer relations to see us through to sustain us through harder times.
In both the agricultural and the emotional processes of preparing for winter, there is inevitably a necessary separation between that which has ripened in order to sustain life, and the chaff that needs to be discarded. There’s a separation between what’s had its day — or even had its say– and now passes, and the fruits of love that find their deepest meanings in how they continue on, even grow to sustain life in ourselves and in others.
Quick, we must be about the harvest of strengthening, loving experiences. We must also roll up our sleeve for the hard work of some separation. Inevitably there must be some sifting. Or a threshing floor work to do.
Nothing, even that which we must let the wind carry off, is lost completely. Nothing disappears, though over time there can be changes in form. But all things belong somewhere in our world. There is an encompassing order. Even a harmony. …Though that “working together” is often fractious enough to be hard for the human eye to always perceive. But it’s all necessary. Much as fall is as needed as summer.
In life, moving forward, looking ahead, preparing, we must be about this process wherein we identify and store away that which we need to keep going, our sustenance. Likewise, it occurs to me as I finish up, church can be a communal storehouse, much as our hearts are storehouses for our individual journeys.
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