Summer's End

There's just the odd leaf turned as yet, a hint of gold or orange among all the greenery, as summer starts to close up shop for this year. In fact, as always at this time, the tree-green has a new depth, a fresh intensity. I don't know if this is something real a change in the chloroplasts as they start to die off or whether it's my own perception. Quite likely the latter, I suspect.

This is the time of year when I want to hang onto the green, clutch at it, say "Wait a minute, don't go away; I'm not ready yet!" A month or two ago, I was taking the green for granted, so accustomed to the leafiness that I barely paid it any mind. Now, when I know it's only a matter of weeks before it's all gone, I find that I want to turn the clock back. Summer's slipping between my fingers like a silvery living fish, and there's nothing I can do to hang onto it.

We take so much for granted while we're waiting for the next thing to happen: we don't enjoy the baby as much as we should, because we're so eager to see her walk; we don't enjoy the toddler because we're waiting for the kid to become civilized. How many days, this summer, could I have gone out back to my screen house and sat there, peaceably mosquito-free (well, mostly) and simply stared out at the green? But no: there was laundry to be done and crises to manage, mostly my very own; there was the perpetual lure of e-mail, meals to get, the dishes that couldn't wait. And so another summer is just about shot, and I barely paid it any attention. You'd think a Canadian would be more sensible: it's not, after all, as though we get loads of summer anyway. Maybe it's part of being a grownup, or at least someone who tries to pass for one when I sense that someone might be watching.

But there's another way of looking at things, as always. Yes, I am right to give myself a mild but definite noogie for not having paid sufficient attention to the beauty just now passing; I owed summer more attention than I gave it. On the other hand, maybe there's something to be said for not taking too seriously anything that exists in time. Seasons pass, quite noticeably around here. Each has its particular and individual value, although I admit that you have to scrounge around pretty vigorously to find anything good to say about either of our two Mud Seasons, the fall or spring edition.

The important thing is that none of it's going to last anyway, so there's not much use clinging--and to value something isn't necessarily to cling to it, or (more sadly) vice versa. In fact, some of the things and people we cling to most tenaciously we really don't value at all; they're mere props for our neediness, It-things that we use, not beloved Thou-people. In fact, whatever it is--summer, a lover, a treasure of whatever sort, life itself --we should value it and love it, but we should never forget that all temporal-type items are purely passing fancies. Ultimately all that endures is God and our souls, if they are indeed immortal, as Christian rumour has it.

Which is why Godwork and soulwork (I don't imagine them as separable, somehow) really ought to be at the center of our lives. This inseparability, and this alone, will stay with us. We'll always have God, even when God feels furthest and most silently unreachable: that is something we take on faith at first; only later do we find out, looking back, that it is simply true. And we'll always have soulwork of some sort to do, which is why Jesus pointed out, more often than once, that we really should spend more time working on our own sins than supervising others'. I imagine that this state of things gets only bigger and broader and more important on the other side of the River that (Time says) each and every one of us has to cross at some point, early or late. Well, maybe not the sins part; presumably sooner or later, safely in God, we do get those cleared up. But I suspect a soul could spend quite a lot of eternity working with God on becoming all that that soul could be, which is what perfection really means.

Still, that's really no excuse for having wasted another summer on trivial adult things, especially when so many of them involved playing Freecell. I should instead have been trolling the God-created landscape for things of beauty and worth: moments to wrap in memory as in amber. This is all the more true since, I find, spending time living wholly in creation, giving it your fullest and most undivided attention, is in fact one of the best ways of doing that God- and soulwork which is our duty and our delight. It was C.S. Lewis who said that living fully in this moment is most akin to living in eternity, and that our personal Screwtapes and Wormwoods have least power over us when we are fully present to the present.

Okay, God: I blew it during August, but I promise--former Girl Scout's former honor--to give proper, undivided and appreciative attention to upcoming Leaf Season. I promise to stand in my front yard, leaning on my leaf rake, and let my three big maples dump glory all over me. I promise to drink in that particularly intense chocolaty blue that you see in a fall sky. I promise to go out just as soon as I finish writing this and see if I can see the Milky Way, as one can in the country in clear cool nights. I promise to go apple-picking and sample freely. I promise to dig my toes into creation, for that glorifies the God who created it. And I won't ask for summer back. Promise.

Copyright © 2000 Molly Wolf. Originally published Sat, 16 Sep 2000
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