Well that went fast. It appears the summer sun just packed her bags and left in the middle of the night! Thankfully, she has left her gentle, younger cousin to encourage and guide our autumnal preparations and gatherings. She is weaker, as she does not get the long performance season of the summer sun who, by nature parades so high in the sky. No, we must seek her out instead. The changing skies are my first meaningful interaction of the day, and whilst I like to think of this as a prayer – a nod to our creator, this season offers us the possibility of a much more profound connection to (and from) the land.
We have turned into October, with all the trimmings of plump blackberries dripping onto the pavement, as brambles clad with fruit invade our paths with their purple splattered goodness. When I stop to look, the Makers mark is artistically speckled on every corner of my town: your village, city, or home. Perhaps you see the signs of autumn as you sit and read this.
Was your summer full of fun,
or where there clouds
perched on the horizon?
The scene for me as I write, is a busy one, sat in a coffee shop (again) waiting for my son’s prescription to be made ready (he succumbed to freshers’ flu and with it, a chest infection). The barista has created a pumpkin inspired piece of coffee art on my flat white and two thoughts occur to me:
- When I drink black coffee, I am missing out!
- The marking of the seasons with all their rites and rituals is completely integrated into everyday life (we just choose to interpret them in diverse ways).
There are no trees in my line of sight, and even the jolly colours of the towns hanging baskets are obscured from view, so I look beyond the heads, bobbing under umbrellas, and across a road (too narrow for all the double decker buses and lorries it caters for) and see a woman taking down a poster from a shop window. The building opposite has been vacant long before my time here, and is unsightly in that unloved type of way that happens all too quickly when a business vacates. It’s rotting window frames offer up flecks of crimson paint onto the tarmac below and as I look closer it is possible to see traces of another shade that I feel sure would be named something like ‘Azure’ in the decorator’s catalogue. How do we let our buildings get into such bad shape, it must surely be a lack of something: funds, vision, time, support? At what point did it become a forgotten space that got left behind – an invisible resource that perishes before our eyes.
Facebook tells me this shop has finally been sold at auction and the mossy walls and leaf littered gutters will soon be restored/ renewed/ replaced, but it feels to me as though we don’t listen to the stories of our buildings enough and I wonder what former lives it has had. Was it ever residential, who owned it, what had it previously sold? Some of the changes it must surrender to now may be necessary, even vital for its thriving and ultimate survival. Other changes may be forced upon it with little thought of historic sympathy or interest, and so it is with many things in life. Change is assured and always to be welcomed, if we are to grow in our knowledge and service, but surely it is something that must evolve from the past stories and cumulative wisdom of a building, a place, or land. In this season of plenty, can we learn again to hear the stories of the land; can we evolve in harmony with the seasons?
Harvest services pop up everywhere and we are reminded of that immovable connection between God’s people and God’s earth. To God there is no distinction, only a love story retold through the ages. Throughout the bible, our fate – our story, is inextricably linked to that of the land. When the people are doing wrong, the land is cursed too, and that has always seemed unjust to me, for our earth suffers much at the hands of humans. Yet, I believe to God we are one:
‘Even the wilderness and desert will rejoice in those days; the desert will blossom with flowers. Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! The deserts will become as green as the Lebanon mountains, as lovely as Mount Carmel’s pastures and Sharon’s meadows; for the Lord will display his glory there… With this news bring cheer to all discouraged ones. Encourage those who are afraid. Tell them, “Be strong, fear not, for your God is coming… He is coming to save you.”‘ (Isaiah 35: 1-4)
Soon it will be winter, and we shall turn our thoughts to the Christ Child, but for now, let’s not rush to get there. Let’s not rush to see the shop windows bedecked or the mistletoe hanging high. I look back across the street and am reminded that Hope springs up everywhere…if we choose to see it. The key to wisdom may lie in finding peace in all seasons of life.
That is wisdoms inheritance.
When we start to notice our planet, each other, those whom society has forgotten, then we start to inhabit God’s space. We start to experience the work of the Spirit and the compassion of a saviours love for all of creation, and that, is something I long for.
Wherever you find yourself this week, may you feel God’s presence, and in turn, offer up that love to our hurting world.