“Behold, I am making all things new.” -Revelation 21:5
Pulling out of the garage into Thursday morning’s rain, I noticed ice on the meadow grass and took this picture. Time to cut the meadow back before winter so it will reseed in spring, I said to myself. Then I drove into town for my Open Hours shift at WriterHouse.
Mid-day, Keith emailed: “The temperature has dropped, and we have ice on the trees. I just saw a branch fall out front, far from the road or driveway, but watch out on your way back.”
“Thanks for the heads up,” I replied. “Lisa’s class just ended, and I’m going to lock up. Schools are closed, and so is WriterHouse. Will grocery shop then head home. Roads were fine, ice on trees in Nelson County, not as much in Cville, but that was 3 hours ago…”
The roads were still fine, that is, until I encountered a road block close to home. The route over the mountain behind our house was closed due to a downed tree. But, since the road to our house cuts off before the mountain pass, the police officer waved me on and told me to be careful.
About half way up the old gravel logging road to our house, I crossed the line of demarcation from rain-soaked to ice-coated vegetation. Pruning weather.
Rounding the corner to the last hill before our driveway, I came upon another road block. A large branch and debris had fallen to the ground. Road closed.
Today, as I weather the late autumn of my own life, I find nature a trustworthy guide. It’s easy to fixate on everything that goes to the ground as time goes by: the disintegration of a relationship, the disappearance of good work well done, the diminishment of a sense of purpose and meaning. But as I’ve come to understand that life “composts” and “seeds” us as autumn does the earth, I’ve seen how possibility gets planted in us even in the hardest of times.
Looking back, I see how the job I lost pushed me to find work that was mine to do, how the “Road Closed” sign turned me toward terrain that I’m glad I traveled, how losses that felt irredeemable forced me to find new sources of meaning. In each of these experiences, it felt as though something was dying, and so it was. Yet deep down, amid all the falling, the seeds of new life were always being silently and lavishly sown. . . .
I parked in our neighbor’s driveway and checked my phone. Indeed, he had called to warn me and was already out there with his chainsaw. I pulled on my gloves and joined him: he cut, I cleared.
In the days that followed, Keith and I noticed more scarred and broken trees in the forest around our house. The most vulnerable were those that had not shed their leaves—young ashes, middle-aged maples and tulip poplars, venerable old oaks. Branches and trees snapped, peeled bark, and fell.
We grieved the beauty that had gone to ground.
From Richard Rohr’s Sunday, November 18, 2018 reflection:
When I give myself over to organic reality—to the endless interplay of darkness and light, falling and rising—the life I am given is as real and colorful, fruitful and whole as this graced and graceful world and the seasonal cycles that make it so. Though I still grieve as beauty goes to ground, autumn reminds me to celebrate the primal power that is forever making all things new in me, in us, and in the natural world.
This Thanksgiving week, Keith will cut the branches that fell in the meadow, then I will cut the meadow grasses. Falling and Rising. Making way for new things here at Vanaprastha, the place where we were planted in the autumn of our lives.