It's the end of October and that puts us squarely into fall. All around the country, and parts of the rest of the world, trees are having their green leaves turned to gold, orange, red, and shades in between. It's a moment of glory and beauty, and all too soon, those leaves fall off the trees and the branches will stay bare until spring arrives and the new buds begin to peek out. Fall is an interesting time of year, because it puts nature and humanity on seemingly totally different paths.
In nature, the trees are slowing down as evidenced by their leaves changing colors. Inside, this sap is pretty much where it's going to be because the tree isn't going to be growing very much. The tree is settling down for winter, and so are the flowers, the grass, and even the weeds. Of course, in the area around Phoenix as well as a few places around the country, it's still about 100° or so, which makes it hard to get in the mood for fall. We have to take for granted (or travel up to the mountains a couple of hours north of us) that the seasons have changed, but change it does and has, and we change with it.
There is a meme on Facebook that has been marking off the Fridays until certain specific dates. For instance, there are no more Fridays until Halloween since we just had Friday yesterday and Halloween is on Monday. If anybody cares, there's one more Friday until election day, after which, hopefully, the rhetoric will ramp down and we can go back to looking at pictures of kittens and other cute baby animals. There are three Fridays until Thanksgiving, so we still have time to get all the trimmings prepared, and even decide with whom we will spend Thanksgiving — we went to Grandma Jones' last year so we need to be with Grandma and Grandpa Smith this year. It can be quite a quandary. There are eight more Fridays until Christmas, so we need to start making a list of who is going to get what, and then figure a way to go out and actually get the items without some of the recipients knowing about it. Then there are nine Fridays until New Year's, when we start to plan next year with hopefully more optimism then perhaps we had this year.
There is one fall ritual that always seems to perk people up and that is the World Series. This year seems to be more a year of rejoicing than usual, since both teams playing have had very long dry spells. It's funny, there are so many Cubs fans in Phoenix Arizona. There are also Cleveland Indian fans, but the Cubs fans are the ones you hear from.
As nature slows down in the fall, human beings seem to speed up. School is in session, which means we have to make sure the kids are up and out the door on time, they have their books, lunches, and homework, and they get to their bus before it leaves. We have to get to work on time because, with the coming of the new year, there are a lot of tasks that have to be finished, and a lot of ducks to get in a row before the year turns and the books get closed for 2016. At church, if the choir hasn't started practicing for Christmas, be warned that it is imminently forthcoming.
We also plan for the season of Advent, that contemplative season of the church year where we stopped rushing around hopefully long enough to sit, take a deep breath, read an edifying book or Scripture, and think about the real meaning of Christmas which is the coming of the Christ child. It's a counterintuitive kind of season since it encourages us to slow down and be awake to what God has to say to us even as we rush from grocery store to toy store to the soccer field, the ballet class, choir practice, and all the other places we have to be.
It's a little early to be thinking about Advent much less Christmas, but they are seasons that require preparation even as they themselves represent preparation and its fulfillment. Try going into a craft store about this time of year, and the aisles will already be bulging with people getting materials for decorations and gifts to be given at Christmas. You walk into almost any store these days, at least this time of year, and face brightly-lit Christmas trees, boxes of ornaments, and all the appurtenances required to make what we have been accustomed to as a proper Christmas, and all of it cheek by jowl with Halloween candy and costumes by the score.
Meanwhile we still have time. We have time to start preparing for the things that we think are important and also for the things our soul needs to do. We so often forget to attend our souls. Were much more careful about our rosebushes, or Christmas presents, or Jilly's tutu for the dance recital or her appearance in Swan Lake. We get busy tending other things, and hope that the Sunday morning experience of church will produce the requisite soul feeding we need. For some, that may work, but for a lot of people they need more but they just don't realize it. When souls are not tended carefully, they are like a plant that doesn't get water or fertilizer. They shrivel and never reach the potential that was present when they were mere seedlings.
This fall, I think my challenge is to actually stop preparing for who gets what present and start preparing for what the season of Christmas is really about. Halloween represents the feast of All Saints and that of All Souls, those who have gone before us and who have left their witness and testimony for us to learn. We need to get through Thanksgiving, which is a reminder that we have roofs over our heads, food on our tables, family around us, and an opportunity to feed the souls of the homeless and hungry just as we feed their physical bodies. Then we can be ready for Advent because we have made use of all the glorious days before its actual arrival.
Enjoy the fall. Look at the leaves and appreciate the many colors that are there for us to notice and enjoy. Prepare the flower beds with mulch to protect the bulbs and seeds that will come up at a later time. Most of all, spend some time being grateful, and thoughtful, and quiet, allowing our souls to listen for God and receive the nourishment God provides. New
Perhaps the Cubs will feed our souls just a tiny bit this fall. Who said God doesn't like a good baseball game?
Originally published at Speaking to the Soul on Episcopal Café Saturday, October 29, 2016.
PS. Cubs lost, but Cubs fans always have hope.