The autumn equinox falls on Wednesday September 23 this year. Fall is often the season for new starts: new seasons of television shows, sports, kickoffs for new opportunities at church and at school. Summer has come to an end and cooler weather commences, at least in Kansas.
Harvest also comes in the fall. After summer planting, the time comes to gather everything in and prepare for winter. Fruits and vegetables are canned or frozen for the long winter months. In Kansas the ground is prepared for winter wheat that is planted and begins to grow and goes dormant in the coldest part of the winter. Spring bulbs are placed in the ground for blooming in the spring, garlic is planted in order harvest in early summer.
Personally for me, autumn is a time of reflection. As the days grow shorter, I find myself being more reflective and pondering my life. In certain traditions the new year begins in the fall instead of the winter. Makes perfect sense to me.
In twenty-first century America, the need to “prepare” for the long winter is not necessarily an actual need for most people. Grocery stores are open 24/7, there are restaurants and convenience stores everywhere. Few people live in such isolation that they need to have foodstuffs on hand that they can live without a visit to a grocery store. However, even in modern society, events happen that require forethought and planning.
Autumn is perhaps my favorite season. The cool crisp days, the light summer fare gives way to heavier, more robust flavors, the outside greens burst into crimson, orange and yellow in preparations for fading into brown,
the nights grow longer and the days grow shorter and the sky becomes vibrant in the last moments of the evening.
I wish I could say that life often imitated those fall colors, but in my experience, it usually does not. Organizations, churches, communities, towns and cities and people themselves often fade away. Churches and small towns lose people and then begin to point fingers as to why they are no longer thriving. The autumn of their existence comes and with it anger, distrust and a giving up, rather than an opportunity to evaluate the time and the season. Then, to ponder what to plant and how to proceed through the winter and prepare for spring planting. Spring flowers must be planted in the fall, in order for them to bloom in the spring. That requires faith, trust and hope for the future. Then faith bursts out in vibrant colors trusting that in the spring, new growth and life will appear.
I think life is like that. I like pondering in the fall, harvesting the fruits of my labor, whether from the garden or from my life. Working the ground, adding compost to richen the soil and then putting out the seeds and bulbs that require the cold winter to make them ready to bloom and grow in the spring and summer. Of course this metaphor is lacking. In our modern society we can have fruits and vegetables and flowers all year round and the season of the year doesn’t matter. The church can plant seeds every day, water them and pray for them to grow.
My point is that most of life is not instantaneous. Things take time to grow and mature and ripen. That is true for trees, for flowers, for fruits and vegetables and for people and communities too. How we choose to embrace the time of planting, deepening, flowering, producing and harvesting says a great deal about our faith and how we understand the world. Me? I intend to dig up the soil of my garden and my life. In turning over the ground, and planting the seeds, I am trusting that through the cold of winter, the Divine is working the seeds. When the spring comes, and the world green again, wonderful things will come forth from my life and spirit and from my garden. With that hope and faith, I am graced to serve.