I always become particularly reflective around this time every year as we begin the transition from summer into autumn. Although our common vocabulary doesn’t really have a name for this period, I recognize and celebrate it as a definitive season nevertheless. The changes right now are subtle and if it weren’t for spending so much time outdoors I might not recognize nor appreciate them. The summer insects have been singing for a couple of weeks now and at some point I will make the effort to try and count the numbers of cricket and katydid species that are out in the front and back yards. The butterflies, bees, tiny wasps, beetles, flies and other pollinators are busy at the flowers all day long, as are the hummingbirds who are gearing up for their long flights south. The Joe-pye weed is blooming and the ironweed will soon create a purple haze in the garden as a forerunner to the asters and goldenrod who are the true heralds of fall.
There are other signs that I seem to notice more subliminally. The honey locust has just a few leaves that are already turning yellow and floating to the earth. It is easy to miss a handful of tiny butter colored leaves among the mass of green that still covers the tree and, in truth, there are not many of them. Still, to anyone who pays attention, they are a signal of the beginning of the end of the growing season. Fragrances abound that are particular to this time of year, though not as strong or as recognizable as the scents of fall. Field corn is tasseling now and its flowers have a fragrance that is as distinctive as roses. Goldenrod, while not yet in bloom, also gives off a spicy scent that I have known since my childhood and I pass a patch of it every day on my walks. The barn and tree swallow populations have grown and they are starting to sit together on telephone wires along the road. Though their migration is still a month or more away, they are clearly aware of its approach. Just this evening I watched as a large flock of starlings made their way across the field and into one of my black cherry trees. Their flocking means that they too are aware of the season and that the coming end of summer is not far off.
These changes remind me of the seasons of my own life all over again and I take hope in noticing the rhythms of the earth. Though my logic tells me that these changes mean that life is waning, my heart exults in the jubliation of the moment. The insect’s song is evidence of their determination to ensure the life of their next generation, as is the fragrance of the corn’s flowers. Whereas I may look ahead and know the next chapter in the seasonal story, these players are carrying out their purposes at hand with abandon. Whereas I sometimes fear growing older and worry about what I may or may not be able to do in the future, these creatures serve as a reminder that living in the here and now is a gift to be treasured.
I realize that I cannot control much of what may happen in my future life. But I also realize that I can choose to trust that God will walk alongside me. As I exhibit my own signs of transitioning into life’s next seasons, I hope to remember the lessons I relearn each year. Every season has its own tasks, its own challenges and joys. I know that the tasks have not been and will not be the same as those of the previous season but I trust that they will be rich in that which is appointed to them. May I accept and enter into them with the same abandon as do the creatures from which I learn each day.