Watching the Leaves Turn

Daylight grows shorter, the days grow cooler and the trees dazzle us with a show of color, ending the season in a blaze of glory before going dormant for the winter.

Here in New England this is an annual spectacle, perhaps one that has become too familiar to some of us. I have friends who come from places that don’t experience the seasons the way we do, and they helped me see the change of the seasons through fresh eyes. One of them, who lived on a tropical island, had never seen a flock of a hundred birds rise up from a marsh then zip away, flitting this way and that, if they shared one mind. Or watched green leaves turn yellow, orange and red. To her leaves were always green. Another friend who lived close to the equator had never experienced such a change in the length of the daylight as we experience here at 42 degrees latitude. Nor had she ever needed to bundle up in layers of clothing against the cold, or wear rubber boots to slog through the ice and snow.

Every place on the planet experiences a change of seasons. People in some places have seasons like we do in New England. Other people experience the seasons in a more extreme form than we do, such as the folks in Alaska or the most northern parts of Scandinavia who are plunged into perpetual darkness in December, but enjoy perpetual daylight in June.

Even places that don’t experience four seasons as we do still have other seasonal changes, such as a dry season and a rainy season.

Human life is a succession of seasons. We are born, grow from infancy to childhood, from childhood to adulthood, and from there to our golden years. And one generation passes into the next, as our children have their own children, who have their own children.

Even an ordinary days are cycles in our lives. We wake up, prepare for our day, get the kids off to school, go to work, come home, have dinner, relax, go to sleep, and repeat it the next day.

There are people who look sadly at the autumn colors as a sign that winter is coming. I interpret the spectacle of color and the song of the leaves crunching under my feet as a sign that life isn’t leaving our world, it’s only changing its forms, about to play hide and seek with us, beckoning us to follow it through the days of ice and long shadows all the way through to the milder, melting, greening days of spring.

Don’t just look at the changing leaves through the windshield of your car as you hurry from one errand to another. Go for a walk in the cool evening air. Maybe someone on your street with a wood stove or fireplace is burning wood. Take in the aroma. In the cooler, drier air of the fall the starlight is more steady and the stars seem brighter. Listen to the crackle of the dry leaves under your feet. This is the time of year when grandmothers bake pumpkin pies and gingerbread cookies, when football teams take to the field, when shorts and swimsuits go back in the closet and sweaters and wool socks come out.

We should take comfort in the natural rhythms and cycles of life, whether they are the cycles we see in our changing seasons, or the cycles of our lives. We are not static beings, we are dynamic, moving from one moment into the next, never staying still in time and space, but always changing and moving along with time’s arrow into a future that is full of possibilities. As we watch the leaves turn, fall from the trees, and sprout anew next spring, let’s reflect on the cycles of our own lives.

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Sure Got Cold After The Rain Fell

Hurricane Earl was heading up the east coast toward my New England location, with every media outlet predicting a very close pass.  All media outlets, except for one.  The meteorologist on one station explained that several computer models gave different predictions for the path of Earl, and the National Hurricane Center was using the most westerly prediction as the basis of their warnings.  That makes sense under the time-tested principle of “better safe than sorry.”

Earl took a more easterly path farther from the coast, and it also weakened as it approached the New England area.  While the Cape and Islands did experience significant wind and rain, the rest of southeastern Massachusetts got nothing more than a good windy rainstorm.

Some folks may think it was all excitement over nothing, driven by the news media to bolster ratings, and they may not take the next warnings seriously, and find themselves caught unprepared by a direct hit from a powerful storm next time.  Other folks will know better and understand that we are “better safe than sorry.”

Sometimes faith can be like listening to hurricane warnings. Sometimes we’re in a comfortable place with our faith and we know we are on the right path.  But sometimes we go through dark times in our lives, and it seems like it’s all preparation for nothing.  Hang on anyway.  That’s when the “better safe than sorry” principle can keep you afloat.  Those times when it seems like there’s nothing, that no supreme being is looking over you and caring about you, that is the time when you are most in need of that faith, and it is the time when God has got the tightest hold on you, even if you can’t feel it.  That is when the storm could have been worse, but unlike the folks listening to weather forecasts, you’ve got no way to know that until the day you face God at the end of your earthly life.  Hold fast to your faith even when it seems like you’re holding on in vain.   Give up on a hurricane warning, and you lose earthly things.  Give up on the call to faith, and you set aside a great gift from God.  When the troubles have passed, you’ll see that it was the right thing to do.

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Hello world!

This is Day One of a new blog, a day of promise, a day looking into the future.  I’m currently a deacon in my church, a small New England Congregational church going back to 1632, one of the earliest churches to sprout from the Pilgrim’s original settlement when they began to spread out through southeastern Massachusetts.  I’ll be writing about church and culture, viewing the world through the lens of my faith, and sharing insights with those of you who have found this blog site and wish to follow along.

God bless you all!

John, July 15, 2010

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