Autumn is the eternal corrective.
It is ripeness and color and a time of maturity;
but it is also breadth, and depth, and distance.
What man can stand with autumn on a hilltop
and fail to see the span of his world
and the meaning of the rolling hills
t hat reach to the far horizon?
Nature reveals intimations of its Maker in so many ways. It can even mask disturbing realities in this fallen world so that in the remaining clarity one can gain a better perspective of the bigger picture. The exact beginning and end of nature’s seasons, like the seasons of our lives, come and go shrouded to some extent in veils of mystery. And we can never really be sure of the exact moment in time that the spark of change ignites. Nor do we know when the remaining ember of that initial spark will die, but the time and space between beginnings and endings, like autumn, ripen life with more than enough breadth and depth and distance and color. For example it was over 80 degrees here today and although I did not “waste anything as precious as autumn’s sunshine,” I know November’s door will close at midnight and the winter solstice is only 3 weeks away. But I also know there’s no guarantee that the solstice will mark the exact end of lovely autumnesque realities. The weather forecast may say that an arctic norther will start blowing in here in the wee hours of the morning and plummet our temperatures to below freezing by tomorrow night. But the same forecast also shows that a day later we’ll be on the climb right back up to the warmer ripeness and color that is quintessentially autumn. So who knows? Is this cold snap the beginning of the end or will it be the next one or the one after that? There may be many things we cannot know in this life, and although it has been said that “life is a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing,” others perceive life as a different kind of tale. I, for one, find that standing outside in autumn, or any season for that matter, gives me glimpses of Yahweh, the Holy One, wrote the tale, who knows everything, who’s in control, and who has a plan, purpose, and time for all things under heaven.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. ~Ecclesiastes 3:11 ✝
And now November rains erode the nests
That mourning doves assembled in the gardens
From where their mild and wind-warm coos caressed
My ear, to quiet earth that cools and hardens
~Edward Alan Bartholomew
As I worked in the yard today, a mourning dove somewhere above my head sang her sad, sad tune in the dwindling hours of the late November day. Although I could hear her long before I could see her, eventually I spied her and her soft, pinkish underbelly on the high wire where she sat in an intermittent reverie between her sorrowful cries. Perplexed by her pleas I sat pondering the meaning of the doleful melodies. Why does she cry I wondered? Does she lament the closing of the day and the dark, moonless night that lies ahead? Have her children come and gone too soon? Where is her lover that he might console her? Is she hungry? Is she frightened? Surely she doesn’t lament the regrettable affairs of men. Then I noticed that the stone rabbit with the upright ears seemed to be pondering her despair as well. Again I mulled over what the cause of her woe might be. The weather and the garden, though not perfect this time of year, should be no cause for such sorrowful sounds. Other birds had for sure been chattering gleefully which made her cries and lamentations even more pitiful. Cooah, coo, coo, coo she’d called over and over again as the day wound down, and then suddenly just before all light was gone her melancholy voice vanished. And then it occurred to me that perhaps her haunting, soulful sounds were simply songs of praise for another day of living and it was time to rest her weary wings.
I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.” ~Psalm 55:6 ✝
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
fluttering from the autumn tree.
Brisk breezes are moving across the landscape today, and as a result it’s raining confetti-colored leaves. So it is that bone by bone by bone the garden’s structure is reappearing whilst that which was fleshed out in spring and summer withers or falls away. These, the yard’s skeletons, will remain, holding tightly to their promised renewal throughout months steeped in wintry chills. Even though bare and stripped of visible signs of life, they will yet proffer a comforting presence and a kind of beauty to those who watch and wait during cloudy coldness and rarer bouts of the sun’s warmth and mercy. And though they become pale and wan and washed in grays and beige, in the spreading silences, the wind whispers that they and life–that spark, that miracle, that breath–have not been vanquished; all is not lost as down, down, down into coming winter’s “vale of grief” we go.
Sovereign Lord, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant. ~2 Samuel 19:23 ✝
Above me and below me
Hovers the beautiful.
I am surrounded by it.
I am immersed in it.
~Native American Saying
I thank God for the ways of Creation–
For eyes to see Creation’s beauty,
For ears to hear Creation’s sounds,
For a tongue to taste Creation’s savory delights,
For a nose to smell Creation’s sweet aromas,
For arms to embrace others with a loving touch,
For a heart to understand the ways of the Lord,
For words to praise the triune God, Maker of heaven and earth.
~Edited and adapted from a Native American prayer
I will praise God’s name in song and glorify Him with thanksgiving. ~Psalm 69:30 ✝
When you rise in the morning
give thanks for the light,
for your life,
for your strength.
Give thanks for your food
and for the joy of living.
If you see no reason to give thanks,
the fault lies in yourself.
~Chief Tecumseh, Shawnee
Under the sun’s flares on a fairly warm, late November day, fierce winds yielded at last to gentle breezes. And then at day’s end, the setting sun generated dazzling drama in the west while moonrise began eastward with a waxing crescent moon. Up and up and up it ascended through the branches of the willow until its light shined over the tree’s top as night dropped its dark shade. Changing slowly from the sinuous sliver of a crescent moon like this one to the rounded fullness of a sphere, the great white orb of the heavens has been an endless source of wonder, charming and bewitching mortals throughout the ages as well as affecting tides, fishing activities, and the planting of crops. Its varying phases and mystical beauty have also inspired legends, myths, and romance by those who’ve lived below and gazed up at its recurrent and divine evanescence. But then any kind of light–sunlight, moonlight, candlelight, firelight, spiritual light–has always fascinated and drawn humanity into its mystery. Perhaps it’s because humans as well as and earth’s creatures sense sanctity within it. I know I do, and I’ve always wondered if wolves howl at the moon as an act of thanksgiving for their Creator or at least as a way of loving Him which makes me think that howling at the moon is not such a bad idea.
Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. ~John 1:5 ✝
At no other time (than autumn) does
the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell,
the ripe earth; in a smell that is in
no way inferior to the smell of the sea,
bitter where it borders on taste,
and honeysweet where you feel it
touching the first sounds.
~Ranier Maria Rilke
There’s a nip in the morning air. The willow leaves have turned yellow, and the once green lawn has now donned its beige coat. As autumn continues to morph into winter, the sun streaks across the yard from its more southerly stance. In the aftermath of recent rain and wind, the redbud tree scarcely has any leaves, and the Rose of Sharon stands naked in the chilled garden. Beneath her the rose hips are dressed in scarlet and above the oaks leaves are reddening. The whir of butterfly wings is gone, the hum of the bees is gone, the fragrance of the blossoms is gone, and yet something mysterious, something magical, something hallowed remains. But what is it? What is alway present in Eden’s haunts? Surely you must know for all around us the air sweetly speaks of the unmistakable, unending, undying, abiding aroma of El Shaddai, the Lord God Almighty.
They have ears, but cannot hear, noses but cannot smell. ~Psalm 115:6 ✝
Are there not hours of an immortal birth,—
Bright visitations from a purer sphere,
That cannot live in language? Is there not
A mood of glory, when the mind attuned
To heaven, can out of dreams create her worlds?—
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. ~1 Corinthians 13:12 ✝