by Christine Sine,
This morning I turned on the kitchen lights when I got up. It’s the first time since summer began. We are still looking forward to the warm days and abundant harvests for August and September, but the shortening days are my first warning that the seasons are about to change. It reminds me of when I worked in Jamaica. One of the common road signs read You Have Been Warned. It didn’t tell you whether there was a sharp curve or a pothole ahead, you just knew that it was time to be alert and keep your eyes open for change.
Change is the most constant aspect of our world. Seasons change, lives change, the world changes, and our faith changes. I am a hot weather person and hate to think that summer may be on its way out. In my lazy enjoyment of summer beauty and relaxation, it is easy to bury my head in the sand and forget. It’s easy to ignore the changes and procrastinate on my preparations for the new season. I don’t want to be a killjoy either. I want to enjoy the rest of the summer to its full. But I do need to be alert to the signs that autumn and winter are on their way and change is coming. Being alert means I can plan well to both embrace and accept change without fear or regret. It is for all these reasons that we have chosen Gearing Up for a New Season as the Godspace theme for the next couple of months.
Change is in the air, notice it, embrace it, and don’t regret it seems like a good mantra for August!
What Needs to Fall Away?
The most obvious autumn change is the transformation of leaves from green to red and yellow – a bright flurry of breathtaking colour before the leaves fall stripping the trees to their bare bones.
“What needs to fall away in my life as I look towards the next season?”, I wonder. It’s hard to let go of summer. I love the warmth, the riot of colourful blossoms, the beauty, the fragrance, and the delightful sounds of bees and birds. I love the harvesting of tomatoes, squash, and summer greens. Yet as Ecclesiastes reminds us, “To everything there is a season.” Letting go and allowing what needs to fall away to pass without regret is important if we are to embrace the new that God has for us.
What needs to be planted for future growth?
August is often our hottest month in Seattle, and prime time for vacations and for harvesting tomatoes and squash, but it is also time to plant for fall and winter harvests. However, what I plant is very different from my spring garden. I don’t plant tomatoes and squash that need heat to mature. I plant spinach, Asian greens, broccoli, and root crops that I know will enjoy the cooler weather and mature quickly before the frost. I also plant overwintering crops that can get a good start now then sit dormant through the coldest months before maturing early in spring next year.
I am also reminded that autumn is the best time to plant new shrubs and trees. Over the winter they may look barren and lifeless above ground, but deep down their roots will grow, reaching towards life-giving water that sustains them during next year’s dry summer months. Without this root, growth and future harvest will be small and spindly.
I need the same responsibility in planting for growth and harvest in my body, soul, and spirit. What new practices can I plant now that will enrich the upcoming seasons? How do I plan for autumn and winter soul-harvests in the Northern hemisphere – fast-growing, cool-loving greens and root crops whose sweetness is enhanced by the first winter frost? Or in the Southern Hemisphere for the longer harvest season of spring and summer?
It’s all about planning! And that planning needs to be both responsible and realistic just like my garden planning. If you are heading into autumn and winter as we are, it is good to remember that just as garden growth slows as the weather cools, so does the pace of our bodies and spirits. Our bodies need more rest. Maybe the lead-up to Christmas is not meant to be the hectic and exhausting season we have made it into.
What new buds have been formed that need to be protected?
Several years ago, I was astounded to discover that the buds containing next year’s blossoms and leaves form in the autumn then wait patiently until the spring to green and grow. It is so easy to want to force new buds into bloom, like in a hothouse. And sometimes we can produce spectacular blooms in this way. However, I have also discovered that plants that are forced into bloom too soon will probably never recover. The blooms will be a one-time spectacular display.
What are the spiritual equivalents of perennials that need the winter to send down deep roots, I wonder? Perhaps it’s time to think about a new contemplative garden or one of our quarterly retreats, or designing a new spiritual practice. It’s time to get these practices on the calendar now before life gets too busy.
Last year in our small community, we painted leaves and decorated them as autumn began. I placed mine on the dining room table as a daily reminder of the changes of the season. I am looking forward to doing that again this year. It was a wonderful way for me to mark the changing seasons, a reminder that change is indeed in the air.
What are markers of change in your life? Is there a word, a phrase, an image, or perhaps something like my leaves that can act as markers of change for you? How could you display these as reminders of the changing seasons?
Take some time after you have identified your marker to pray and determine the next steps for this season. Prayerfully read through the prayer at the beginning of this post. Here in the northern hemisphere, we are all heading into autumn. In the southern hemisphere, spring is just emerging. Wherever we are there is change in the air. Reflect on it, prepare for it and embrace it.
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