Monday, September 26, 2022

Lessons Learned in Autumn

October 7, 2014

The Beauty of Fall

October in the North East can be breathtakingly beautiful. People come from all around for leisurely drives and hikes in our wooded areas. It is hard not to be impressed by the splendor of the foliage as nature puts on a great show of reds, oranges, and yellows.

It is time to pull out cozy sweaters and spend a day in the orchards. We can pick apples right off of the trees and pumpkins from their vines. The chill in the air is a refreshing respite from the humid summer.

Laughter rings out from hayrides and tailgate parties, cheers rise up from the stands at football games, and bonfires blaze. We sip hot cocoa and lick the sticky remains of s’mores off of our fingers. Apple pies bubble in ovens, and the crockpots come out for making soups, stews, and chili.

Then comes the surprise gift which makes everyone smile. One last week of gorgeous sunshine and warm temperatures. Windows fly open and everyone tries to get outside and enjoy it while it lasts. The first hard frost is not far away.

The thing is, if you look deeper, there is a lot more going on. Animals are scurrying to collect a store of food for the winter. The blaze of colors above our heads will soon be dead brown dried out piles on the ground. The sky is filled with the birds hurrying to get south to warmer climes. It can be a rather desperate time. Even the humans know that we will be shut in soon and we make preparations for the cold days ahead. This is mostly unspoken, as if not saying the words aloud will ward off the inevitable.

If you have made it this far, bear with me, this is not a nature lesson. What I’m thinking is, I want to be more like that first version of October. I want to be like the bright colors and happiness which draw people’s focus away from the sad sub-story.

To be fair, I will confess that I abhor whining and complaining in general. Some days it feels like I am surrounded by it. My sons will tell you that I frequently ask them to turn off television programs and songs because I cannot take all of the angst. Sadder still is that some of the most serious caterwauling is over crazy first world problems like slow internet, not having the latest basketball shoes, or a latte that wasn’t prepared properly.

These things, to me, are like the dead leaves. They should be crunched underfoot or raked up and made into mulch.

In contrast, standing out amongst the grumblers are the brave souls who are positively radiant. They are like bright sun shining through stunning fall leaves. These are the people who remain poised and grace-filled even when things are not going their way. Despite their difficulties, they exude joy and even take time to reach out to others.

Yes, this is how I want to be.

I have been reflecting upon this verse:

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…” (James 1:2)

One of the easiest ways to get to that place is to live in contentment. It helps to know that there is no circumstance or material possession that will bring me true joy. Happiness is always a choice. Jobs can be lost, health fails, and all of the “stuff” we acquire is destined for a landfill eventually.
I have had the opportunity to make two major moves in my life. Part of the deal was leaving most of my things behind. It was not really hard at all, and it has helped me to keep my feelings about material possessions quite neutral.

I also have a keen perspective on how precious and fleeting life is. There is no possession I would not give for one more day, one more hour, or one last minute with loved ones who have died – but these things cannot be had for any amount of money.

The only thing that I have for certain is the moment. When I can be grateful for it despite any physical or spiritual suffering, when I can look past myself and think of others, and when I can use my own trials and tribulations to draw closer to God, then I am like the good parts of October – a reminder to look up at what is bright and beautiful.