Today there is no bright play of light on the leaves dancing outside the window. Only movement and sound under the cloudy skies. Everything is fluttering in the wind; I can hear the wind chimes Dad made for me, the bell outside my office door. It’s an interesting combination, the sombre grey and the whirling green. I can feel the rain coming. Weather like this always makes me think of pancakes. On wintery afternoons we’d often come back from school to Mom frying pancakes for our lunch. The smell of them always makes me think of the sweetness of knowing you are loved and welcomed home.
I have been sick with a cold the past few days, and the slower pace (my body is feeling tired and sluggish) has put me in a reflective frame of mind. Last week I wrote about Autumn and seasons of change. So much is changing for me at this moment in my life. For the past (almost) nineteen years, I have given my life to raising our sons. I remember the early days of motherhood, how all consuming they were. I recall the days of parenting toddlers, young boys and then tweens. Watching them grow and change and become people of their own. Schooling them, exploring, having adventures and discovering the world together. And now being the mother of boys who bodies are bigger than mine. These two lives that once fit inside me. Whose little shapes curled inside my arms when they were sad or afraid.
You always know, somewhere in the recesses of your awareness, that this will all change. And you know that it must, and you delight in seeing them reach into all that life has to offer, taking bigger steps. Flying just a little further every day from the orbit of your protection and influence. But knowledge is not the same as experience, and the reality of this letting go is harder than I anticipated. I love the freedom that having more time has brought, the space in my life and mind to explore new avenues and opportunities. I am excited about what lies around the corner for me. Already I have started to stretch the borders of my own capacities, and it feels both scary and very good. There is movement and life; it is a time not only of endings but also of beginnings. Joy and pain mingled together. I am proud of my boys; I am excited for them as they move into their futures. I am excited for myself. But today I am a little sad, and I feel the loss of what once was.
the air is changed
scattered on the wet path
the leaves are falling
Autumn is here; the mornings are cold, as are the nights. I am sitting at my writing desk, looking out at the garden. It is still wet, in places, from the rain we had earlier. Leaves lie on the paths and in the flower beds; more fall every day. The leaves make me think of autumn, a season of transition. It has neither the light, heat nor energy of summer, but neither has it the cold or quiet of winter. Not yet. It is a liminal time, an in between place, a kind of pause. Echoes of both summer and winter are reflected in the changing light of autumn. Some days I head out, wrapped up in scarf and boots, only to find by midday that I am overdressed. Other days I wish I’d remembered to bring a jacket. It’s an uncertain time; the weather is hard to predict, changeable. The falling leaves and chilly air carry with them a sense of loss. The change cannot be slowed, or stopped. We have to let go of the trees covered in green, the blue skies. Autumn reminds me that loss and letting go are part of the order of things, that we cannot always anticipate the road ahead. Sometimes I wish it were different, that I could hold tight in my hand the things I cherish. Keep the paths straight and familiar. Stop winter coming. But autumn is what I need, a time to release what keeps my hands too full and my mind too busy for new thoughts. Winter is a time to root more deeply into the convictions and patterns that will shape the summers to come. It is an opportunity to reflect on what I most want to carry into the seasons ahead. I must let autumn do its work so that there is space in my life for new growth. That is autumn’s gift.
You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honour.
I have been thinking about courage a lot lately. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. This is a definition that resonates with me. There are many things to fear in our lives, much that wearies us, and dangers to face. Difficulties (whether temporary or sustained) are constant companions on our road through life. None of us make the journey without challenges, and it seems to me that often these challenges appear designed to open doorways into parts of ourselves that we would rather not see or engage with. I know there are elements of myself I like to keep hidden, even from myself. Patterns of thought and being that I push from conscious awareness. David Whyte speaks to this reality when he says: “…we have unconsciously created a work world so secondary, so complex, and so busy and bullied by surface forces that, embroiled in those surface difficulties, we have the perfect busy excuse not to wrestle with the more essential difficulties of existence.”
I like comfort; I enjoy stability. Challenge and fear are things I would rather banish from my life. But it is fear that calls me to reach beyond the confines of what I know, beyond my current capacities. My life is richer and more spacious for all the times I’ve faced the voice of fear and ventured out into what frightens me. Sometimes the journey takes me further into the outer world of relationships and new skills. Other times it takes me into realms of inner searching, redefining my convictions and perspectives. This process is essential if I am to move into my world with purpose and intention. Aristotle speaks of courage and honour. I think perhaps that honour cannot exist without courage. It is the courage to consistently engage with fear and difficulty that gives us the foundation stones of a character that can act with integrity and honour.
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
This is one of my favourite poems. I love the music of the words. And the thoughts shared here resonate with me. There is so much to carry in our hearts, so much for ourselves and for our children. There are many needs to be filled in the world, and our days are packed tight with responsibilities and cares. It is good to feel the weight of these things and to apply our minds and our hands to that which we can and must do. But it is also good to be still, to stand quietly and listen. I know that sometimes I need to get away from the noise of my life. I need to turn down the sounds of my daily routines and the stream of thoughts in my head. Only then can I be present to the deeper song that fills all of reality. It is connection to that song which nourishes my soul and fills me so that I can re-enter the flow of my life in ways that are rich with intention and purpose. It is attention to this song’s rhythms that keeps me awake and focussed, and helps me to make wise decisions and to act with love. I want to live from a place of conviction, not simply from one of habit or reaction. (And I confess that I do that too often.) I want to live mindful of the opportunity in each moment to be a reflection of the love and wisdom of God. I can only do this if I take time for stillness, to “rest in the grace of the world”.