A line of cars crawls up Route 28. No, it isn’t ice or snow that slows their pace, it’s the foliage. October is the time of year when the trees inspire people to stop and look. The drivers watch in awe as mountains of color - red, yellow, orange, gold, peach, brown, and green - mix together to offer a glimpse of heaven. The leaves are ablaze and they leave us breathless - even as they beg the question: why such a display when they are only going to fall off next week?
I was filled with gratitude for the colors and the warmth, the blaze of glory that autumn provided for us. And I wasn’t the only one. I saw people driving with their mouths open. A friend told me that she became so absorbed and aware in the life all around her that she had to stop her car and pull over and simply stare at the colors. She couldn’t even take a picture.
One morning when there was no fog and the leaves were awash in a vivid orange, the sun rose behind a faint cloud cover and the trees seemed to color the air, every drop of moisture tinged brilliance. This is an easy time to be grateful, an easy time to be filled with gratitude for all of creation.
When the leaves are flaming the whole color of the world changes. The light is different: warmer, brighter, inviting us to stop and look and perhaps even dance. Do you ever wonder whether the burning bush that Moses saw in Exodus chapter 3 was really burning or just bedecked in its autumn plumage? Whatever he saw, it invited him to turn aside, to stop and take a breath. And so he stopped, like the cars on the side of the road, and then he heard a voice that said, ‘take off your shoes you’re standing on holy ground.’
The colors change so fast - red today, gone tomorrow. Are they going out in a blaze of glory? Is it only at the end of their lives when they shine with all their true colors? Do they know that one gust of strong wind or one heavy rainfall with knock them all to the ground? Do they care?
One of my favorite hymns says “we blossom and flourish like leaves on a tree, then wither and perish but naught changeth thee.” It sometimes seems that life is like that. But if I were writing the hymn I might have some additions to make, like in dying the leaves fulfill their purpose to provide nutrients to the soil to promote growth again. (Really I’ll have to work on that, it doesn’t fit the hymn meter at all.) The old leaves on the forest floor are not perfect like they were in the spring. They are chewed up, moths and bugs have driven holes into them and they look a bit like swiss cheese. Another purpose for their life is to provide food and shelter for the insects who also are providing something (I’m really not sure what - bugs aren’t my favorite thing.) Maybe the bugs become what they eat. Which takes me to the whole idea of communion - the great thanksgiving - we say when we eat the bread - ‘the bread of life, the body of Christ, become what you eat.”
Do we also become what we watch or gaze at? Watching the autumn unfold before us, watching the geese fly in long v’s across the sky, feeling the breeze turn chilly when it has been warm and comforting. While we stop in awe, we are also being mindful, present, fully alive in the Presence of nature.
- Edited by BJ Kelly