April Come She Will

promise of seasonsI recently heard an old Simon and Garfunkel song called “April Come She Will” and was instantly reminded not only of how beautiful a tune it is, but also how true. There is much debate over what the song means… from the natural evolution of a short-lived love affair likened to the changing of the seasons, to a metaphor for the actual brevity of life itself. Here are the lyrics… you can decide for yourself:

April Come She Will

April, comes she will,
When streams are ripe and swelled with rain.
May, she will stay,
Resting in my arms again.

June, she’ll change her tune.
In restless walks she’ll prowl the night.
July, she will fly,
And give no warning to her flight.

August, die she must.
The autumn winds blow chilly and cold.
September, I’ll remember.
A love once new has now grown old.

Any of the theories as to its meaning would work for me, but the snow on the ground, the shorter days, the layers of clothing I pile on every day or the space heater cranking away at my feet lead me to think about the seasons and how they change. I reflect upon the uncanny way each one has of representing a new phase or marking the visceral passage of time.

The inevitability of change… the promise of seasons is the only thing we can truly count on in this life. What is that saying? “The only constant is change?” … or something like that. The marching on of the seasons is reliable. No matter what is happening in our lives at any given moment — the backdrops of April, May, June, July, August, September and so on rarely change.

April comes and thaws and fosters life with rain. May follows and we are so grateful to see her again. With her flowers and warmth we graciously hang on to every last drop of sun she offers. June finds us tiring in the heat with days that last so long they’ll draw us into the night before we ever even know it is upon us.

July goes so fast with its high blue skies and holidays—like a month-long celebration—we’ll truly wonder where she’s gone by the time August interrupts. She gently reminds us that soon it will be time to go back. Back to school, back to work, back inside as the days grow shorter, darker… colder. September, we will remember, all the life and love and laughter that came with the start of April’s rain.

Harvest of the Senses

Like kamikazes sacrificially plummeting from the sky, I watched some of the first leaves fall to earth yesterday. Which always makes me sad. Though I cannot blame them… It’s been a long, hot, thirsty summer and frankly I am amazed at their capacity to have held on this long with little to no liquid nourishment from above.

Autumn is without a doubt my favorite season as it unwaveringly causes me to become reflective. For some, reflection comes with the arrival of the New Year… 365 pre-packaged days bursting with possibility. Or perhaps it is spring that stirs within others dreams of opportunity and renewal. But for me, there is no time of year where change is as palpable as in the fall.

If you will, consider how all five of our senses are engaged during the transition that accompanies fall…

The wind feels cooler against our skin that—not long ago bare—is now covered with softer, warmer fabrics.

The air smells crisper, edged with the saccharine scent of our biological world as it breaks down around us.

Our palette changes to accommodate warmer things, tasting both spicy and sweet.

Our sight is continually stimulated by the brilliant colors and shifting shades of the leaves, grasses and the fields of the harvest.

Our surroundings grow quieter and still as the cool weather begins to slow us down. And all that can be heard is the distant falling, rustling and crunching of the leaves as they give themselves over to Time.

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The Shorter Days

I walked across an empty parking lot and turned, startled at an unfamiliar sound. Propelled by a sudden crisp wind, a single brown leaf was scraping against the asphalt. I grasped the cold metal handle and went inside the store, anxious to get warm.

“I can’t believe it’s dark already.” I said to the owner pointing in the direction of the navy sky… dotted with stars. “I know,” he replied, “before we know it, winter will be fully upon us.”

I shuddered at the thought. In winter it seems I never see the light of day. I spend the whole of my available daylight hours beneath artificial flourescent light… in front of the glow of the computer… my back to the window.

It’s hard to believe that winter is almost here again. Most of the leaves have dropped and curled at the bases of the trees while barren branches scratch at a steely sky threatening to slash it open at any time. Once torn, the ice and snow that has been patiently waiting , weighing heavily on the topside of the clouds… will fall mercilessly to the ground, coating everything in crystal.

I’ve heard it said that when spring arrives in the northern states, one realizes that people really do live here. For it is not uncommon to go months during the season without ever seeing your neighbors. People often grow discouraged this time of year as they find themselves pining for those not-long-ago endless days of summer.

On winter’s days the light is scarce. In the mornings, it is dark outside. The streets are silent, except for the occasional commuter traffic and the low roar of a lumbering school bus. There are no voices. No children shouting or laughing. By early evening, it is dark once again and the streets are quieter than ever before. It’s as though the entire world has retreated indoors while the cold and the darkness stake their claim.

Take heart my friends who find themselves despising this time of year when the days grow shorter. We oft forget this meteorological technicality, but actually it is during winter when things begin to turn back the other way! And even in the midst of the gathering darkness—if you take the time to notice—there are signs of life. Houses lit from within by the warm glow of lamp or firelight serve as beacons in the thick, black night.

Their illumination is evidence that we are merely hybernating, and once again we’ll carry on into the spring. The days will grow longer, the ground will thaw and before we know it… tender green shoots will shove their way up through the soil, pushing the snow aside.

“And everything that’s new, has bravely surfaced, teaching us to breathe. For what was frozen through, is newly purposed, turning all things green.” ~ Nichole Nordeman

Look-a-Like Towns

I grew up in Minerva, Ohio. It is a small town (technically a village) and is situated on US Route 30. Along Rt. 30 there are many other little towns that look quite similar. They typically have a Dairy Queen or dairy bar, a few banks, some churches, a park or two, perhaps a red brick school with a playground and of course, houses that resemble those in and around Minerva. To a small child who lives there, these other little “burgs” probably look very much like home to them.

Such was the case with my youngest niece, Juliann, my sister’s daughter. She is now 13 and would probably hate that I’m telling stories about her as she is at “that age” — you know, the age where you can get the death stare AND a bear hug all within the span of 5 minutes. Anyway, I’m willing to take the risk.

One glorious, fall afternoon my parents decided to take little Juliann with them for a ride in the country. She was about 4 or 5 at the time. They have a Jeep Wrangler and it was the perfect kind of day for leaving the top off, loading up their granddaughter and Sadie (their golden retriever) and heading out.

As is popular to do in this region of the country that time of year, they planned on doing some “leaf peeping.” They drove around for hours on country roads gazing at the stunning fall foliage and soaking up us much of the color and warm sunshine that they could before winter crept in. And although I can’t say for certain, I’ll bet they stopped at one of those dairy bars and had a hotdog and an ice-cream cone or sundae on their autumn adventure.

Coming home, they drove through several small towns near and along Rt. 30 and as they passed through each one, my dad would hear a tiny little voice from directly behind him in the backseat utter the question: “Are we in Minerva NOW, grandpa?” Dad would answer: “No, not yet Juliann, this is… <insert name of aforementioned look-a-like burg here>… but we will be soon.”

Somewhere along the way, as kids do after a day in the sun and wind and with a tummy full of ice cream, Juliann fell asleep. When she awoke they were FINALLY driving through Minerva. My dad, assuming that she would be very excited to be home at last, asked her: “Where are you NOW, Juliann?” 
And her answer was priceless…

“I’m right BEHIND you, grandpa!”

Kicking Up the Leaves

In a little red raincoat, jeans and sneakers her blonde hair bounced as she ran. The sun was glistening on her golden locks and there was a look of pure joy on her face when she plopped down in a pile of crispy, brown leaves. With both arms outstretched she gathered as many leaves as she could and scooped them toward her lap. She then proceeded in kicking her legs back and forth and back and forth watching and listening as the dried leaves flew about and crunched while she did this.

Total abandon. Total happiness. Totally in the moment.

I both delighted in and envied her. Why couldn’t I feel that way anymore? Why couldn’t I be free from worry and concern as she was? I wanted so badly to be able to flop right down beside her on the ground and mimic her actions. To me, this precious child who couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5 years old, looked like she was having the time of her life! And all I could do was sit by and watch and worry about my bills or my deadlines, my laundry or my dirty house, my weight, my relationships, my health or the orange flashing light on my dashboard indicating the car’s dangerously-low level of windshield-wiper fluid.

So many worries… so little time. It seemed like only yesterday I was playing in the leaves like her. Watching her I remembered a photo in our family album of me at just about the same age, jumping in a pile of freshly raked leaves and tossing them in the air without a care in the world. And I wondered: Where did all that time go? And more importantly… Where did all these worries come from? Then I couldn’t help but consider, if the woman I am today could meet the little girl that I once was… what would they say to one another? Would the older me warn the younger me of the pitfalls that lie ahead and how to avoid them? Would the older me counsel the younger me about future mistakes or poor decisions?

Of course not.

How could I burden that little one, so full of hope and promise and zest for life, with the concerns of adulthood? That wouldn’t be fair to say the least. But I also gave some thought as to what the younger me would say to the older me… and that, my friends, was an entirely different story. With her inability to even relate to the future and such things as “mistakes” or “poor decisions,” she would tell me that today… right now was all that mattered. That right now the weather is nice and there is a big pile of leaves just calling my name. That right now she has everything she needs to get from this moment to the next. That right now there is nothing more important than running at full speed and diving head first into the heap before its all gone for the winter.

There is a favorite verse of mine that reads: Who of us, by worrying, can add a single hour to our life? So I ask myself then: What am I sitting around here worrying for? Why am I NOT out there gathering and kicking up the leaves?

Colorful Despite the Clouds

In late September, there isn’t much light outside at 7 in the morning on a clear day… let alone a cloudy one. So on a dreary morning, you might imagine my surprise when I noticed a vibrant orange tree just a few blocks away from my house.

Cars still had their headlights on and the streetlights burned brightly as the shrouded sun was barely peeking out of the east… Yet there stood this tree, practically glowing by the side of the road, not even partially illuminated by the assistance of a street lamp. Still you could see that its color was magnificent.

Wow! I thought to myself. How amazing that the luminous fall colors of that tree are still noticeable and even radiant despite the darkness!

And then I considered how the same could be said of people too. Just like the brilliance of that tree, the gathering clouds and darkness of tragedy, illness, abuse, loss or depression that sometimes surround us do NOT diminish our colors. We may believe we’ve lost our luster when we’re hidden beneath the heavy grey fabric of our circumstance. We may feel drab and ineffectual. We may think we go unnoticed by most. We may even seem completely invisible. But do any of these conditions actually have the ability to change the design of who we really ARE?

Our unique and vivid colors exist whether we are able to see them or not.

If I say, Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. ~ Psalm 139: 11-12 

The Encore

I smelled Fall today. I think there are finally enough leaves on the ground that you can actually begin to smell them. You know, like when you were a kid and you raked them and raked them into huge, heaping piles and then dove head-long into them! You would plunge right into the center of that crispy-sweet, earthy scent. There is nothing else like it. It is in the air for just a few weeks… fleeting but heavenly. This is my favorite time of year.

Summer seems to yield to Fall so suddenly. One week you’re wearing shorts and flip-flops and the next you’re reaching into the back of the closet for that favorite sweatshirt. Bare feet search for fuzzy socks and slippers. Windows are opened at night and an extra blanket tossed on the bed. Shadows from the trees lay longer and longer across remnants of green grass… stretching for the last few drops of sunshine before the cold renders them silent. Darkness comes sooner than the night before.

With the glorious colors of the season I have searched and searched for the right words to describe this unique and transformational time of year. But nothing I come up with seems to do it justice. They say a picture is worth a thousand words… and that statement could not be more true of autumn. I guess that’s why—over the years—I’ve turned the camera’s lens to capture so many images of the brilliant leaves when the late afternoon sun is dancing on them. Words simply aren’t sufficient.

Though finally one day it came to me. I believe “encore” to be an appropriate word… if there is one. The dictionary defines encore as: an additional performance in response to the demand of an audience.

If we are the audience… and Spring, with it’s debut of flowers and tender new buds, is the Opening Act, and Summer, with it’s long days and warm nights is the Main Performance… then Fall must be the Encore. The verdant reign of Summer ends in one big blaze of glory. One final number before the white curtain of Winter falls.